How you can help someone sleeping rough

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Homeless Link, StreetLink and our partners have been contacted by many people asking how they can help those within their communities who are homeless or sleeping rough.

During the first national lockdown, local councils worked with homelessness charities to house people sleeping rough in emergency accommodation such as hotels, in order that they were protected and able to self-isolate, preventing the spread of the virus. Some people have been moved into more sustainable accommodation or are still being supported.

However, other people have returned to the streets and, at the same time, new people are finding themselves sleeping rough as a direct impact of the virus, having experienced a loss of income or a breakdown of family relationships, among other things. This is a dangerous position for people to find themselves in over the winter and through the ongoing pandemic. While charities continue to offer support, there are things that you can do to help.

Here are some actions you can take:

  • If you see someone sleeping rough, send an alert to StreetLink, which will enable local services to go out and make contact with the individual in order to connect them with the support and accommodation that is available. www.streetlink.org.uk
  • Stop and have a conversation with people you see sleeping rough. Social interaction and support are more important than ever at this time. Remember to maintain a respectful distance in line with social distancing guidelines.
  • Given current social distancing guidance and the potential to catch the virus through contact with surfaces it may be living on (e.g. coins or plastic packaging), please think carefully and check if the person is happy to accept before giving items such as cash, food, blankets or other supplies to someone on the street. Instead you could:
    • Ask a nearby café if they will let you ‘pay it forward’, purchasing items for the person to collect.
    • Help someone to send a StreetLink alert or find a local support service if they are in need of essential provision.
  • Consider supporting your local homelessness service with a donation, no matter how small. They will greatly appreciate your support at this difficult time as they adapt and continue working to support vulnerable people. Some may be looking for volunteers too. Find local services.
  • Volunteer to help vulnerable people in your community or join your local Covid-19 mutual aid group, which continue to run in many local areas. Check out these websites:  www.volunteeringmatters.org.uk, www.handsonlondon.org.uk, www.covidmutualaid.org
  • Donate food to your local food bank, as they are continuing to support a higher number of people than before the pandemic. Find a food bank.
  • If you see someone in urgent need of medical attention, please call 111 or 999

Please remember to help safely by continuing to follow the guidelines set out by the Government and Public Health England regarding social distancing, handwashing and hygiene.