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7 ways to help people facing homelessness

Get involved and make a difference in the fight against homelessness.

Words by: Ellie Isaac

Senior Editor

The number of people rough sleeping in England has increased by 26% in the last year. It means nearly a quarter of a million households are now experiencing homelessness, whether they’re rough sleeping, sofa surfing or staying in temporary accommodation.

But we can all do something to help. Whether it’s donating, volunteering or contacting a support service at the right time, we can help everyone have a safe place to call home.

How to help in the fight against homelessness

1. Donate

Crisis at Christmas is one worthy cause you can donate to. Each year since 1967, Crisis has opened its doors to provide warmth, companionship and vital services at one of the toughest times of the year.

Their Christmas services work alongside their all-year specialist support, which includes helping people facing homelessness to find their own stable home and access education and training.

Donate to Crisis at Christmas

2. Fundraise

Fundraising is a fun and effective way to join the mission to end homelessness.

There’s a whole world of ways to do it, whether you rally your colleagues at work, fundraise for a race or hold an event.

Or go your own way and get creative. You can fundraise any way you like, from organising a bake-off to hosting a film night.

Charities rely on fundraising to raise most of their income, so you’ll make a difference no matter how much you raise.

Fundraise with Crisis

3. Volunteer

There’s a local volunteering opportunity for everyone who wants to help fight homelessness. You could organise donations, look after a shop floor, or give direct coaching in education, employment, housing or health.

Crisis at Christmas is always looking for new volunteers. You could greet guests when they walk through the door looking for support, or provide a listening ear and companionship. Whatever your role, you’ll be making a real difference to those experiencing homelessness.

Volunteer with Crisis at Christmas

How to help if someone you know is at risk of homelessness

4. Call Shelter

Shelter is the first port of call if you or someone you know is at risk of homelessness.

It offers a range of support, including one-to-one advice, online chat and lots of resources that could help.

Visit Shelter England or Shelter Scotland, or call its free helpline on 0808 800 4444. 

5. Get in touch with other support services

People lose their homes for lots of different reasons. Rising pressure from high rents and low pay, or sudden life events like losing a job or family breakdown, can quickly force people into homelessness.

Whatever someone’s going through, there are some free services that can help – including:

How to help if you see someone sleeping rough

6. Contact StreetLink or Simon Community

Let a specialist charity know if you see someone forced to sleep rough on the street.

Contact Streetlink in England or Wales, or Simon Community in Scotland.

They’ll send someone out to find them, and will connect them with local services to keep them safe.

When you call, give the person’s location, as well as their estimated age, gender, appearance and any belongings they have with them. It can also help to mention if they look unwell or at risk of harm.

7. Stop for a chat

Rough sleeping is both dangerous and isolating, and it often leads to mental and physical health problems.

If you feel comfortable, stop for a chat or say hello to someone who is forced to beg or rough sleep. It might be the only contact they have that day.

Give money or food

When it comes to giving someone change or food, make the decision that feels right for you.

And always consider if it’s the best way to support them. It might be that sharing information or suggesting a service is a better option.

Some people buy gift vouchers from shops to give to people who are having to sleep rough.

If you want to buy them a cup of tea or something to eat, ask them what they’d like first to make sure it’s right for them.

Most importantly, don’t let stereotypes influence your judgement of an individual.

Share information

Giving information can be an excellent way to support someone who is experiencing homelessness.

But bear in mind that some people might find it hard to take in detailed information. Or they might be wary of support services because of past experiences, which can result in frustration or distress.

So before you go ahead, ask if they’d find information useful and make sure you’re both comfortable and safe.

If they’re happy to chat, you could recommend they approach their local authority’s housing team.

Councils have an obligation to advise and assist people who are homeless or about to become homeless. Find your local council.

Another option is calling or visiting their local Crisis Skylight centre, if there’s one nearby.

You can find more local homelessness services – and sometimes make a direct referral – on databases like:

Shelter has advice on getting into a hostel or night shelter in England and emergency accommodation in Scotland.

Or you can search for a night shelter on The Pavement.

Find out more from Crisis

Want to make a donation, volunteer or get involved with fundraising? Head to Crisis, the national charity for homeless people.

You can also read our joint report on housing benefit and the rising cost of renting in England. It sets out why we’re calling for urgent investment in housing benefit during the cost of living crisis.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.