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With the Met Office issuing an amber warning for severe cold weather across the country for the rest of this week, Homeless Link, the national umbrella charity for homelessness services, is urging the public to take action if they see someone sleeping rough. 

There are an estimated 2,440 people sleeping rough on any one night and freezing temperatures can be extremely dangerous or even fatal for anyone sleeping out. 741 people died while homeless in 2021. 

It is imperative that people are connected with local services in these conditions so that they can be offered support. Many local authorities have already activated their Severe Weather Emergency Provision protocols, meaning they are able to provide emergency accommodation to all who need it.  

Homeless Link suggests that people take the following action when they see someone sleeping rough: 

1.Stop and say hello

If you feel comfortable to do so, say hello and check if the person is alright. Social interaction and support are important all year round and can make all the difference. 

2.Call for medical assistance

If someone is in need of urgent medical attention, call NHS-111 or 999 for an emergency ambulance. 

3.Tell StreetLink

StreetLink is a website, mobile app and phone line for England and Wales that enables people to send an alert when they see someone sleeping rough to connect them to local support services.  

Using StreetLink is the best action you can take to help because it makes sure that local outreach teams are aware of the person sleeping rough. They can then offer them support that can help to end their homelessness for good, and which can include emergency severe weather accommodation when this is available. 

To make an alert, visit https://www.streetlink.org.uk or download the app and click ‘take action’ 

  • if you feel comfortable doing so, ask the person if you can make an alert on their behalf.
  • Give as much detail as possible about the person’s exact location to help the outreach teams to find them, and include a general description of the person if possible. 
  • Tell StreetLink the time that you saw the person. Outreach teams go out at night or the early hours of the morning so if you can give details of a night-time sleep site, the teams have a better chance of finding them.

4.Help find a local day service

If the person is in need of a warm space or essential provision during the day, help them to find a local day centre, which can offer food, toilets, showers and homelessness advice. You can search for these services on Homeless England: https://homeless.org.uk/homeless-england/

5.Donate to charity

By giving money to a local homelessness charity rather than directly to a person who is homeless, you can help support longer-term programmes that are working to end people’s homelessness for good e.g. accommodation services, employment programs, health clinics. Some areas have diverted giving schemes that you can donate to. 

6.Give directly

It is always your choice as to whether you give money, food and drink or other items directly to someone who is homeless, and you may wish to do this if you see someone in particular need. It is often a good idea to ask the person what they would like before buying something for them. Some cafes offer pay it forward schemes where you can buy items for someone to collect.  

Fiona Colley, Director of Homeless Link and StreetLink comments: “We know that people often want to help when they see someone sleeping rough, but they don’t always know how. With freezing weather setting in over the next few days, the action you take could be vital. We believe that it the individual’s decision as to you whether you give money, clothing or other items, but there are several other ways to make a difference that might have a longer-term impact. The best thing to do is to use www.streetlink.org.uk to send an online alert, linking the person up with local support services that can help them leave homelessness behind for good.” 


Notes to Editors

Media contact

Rob Cartridge | rob.cartridge@homelesslink.org.uk

About Homeless Link

Homeless Link is the national membership charity for frontline homelessness services, representing over 900 organisations across England. We work to improve services through research, guidance and learning, and campaign for policy change that will ensure that everyone has a place to call home and the support they need to keep it. 

About StreetLink

StreetLink is a mobile app, website and phone line, which enables members of the public to send an alert when they see someone sleeping rough in England and Wales. The information is sent to the relevant local authority or outreach team, who go out to make contact with the person and connect them with local support services to help them end their rough sleeping. 

StreetLink is a non-profit organisation managed and delivered by Homeless Link in partnership with major homelessness services provider, St Mungo’s. It is principally funded by the UK Government (DLUHC), with additional funding from the Greater London Authority and the Welsh Government.