Our hearts are stirred when we walk by people sitting or sleeping on our streets but it’s hard to know how to help. I feel the temptation to walk by but it’s so much better when I get down on their level, introduce myself and ask about their situation. Often I find that the person is already working with an organisation that is helping them and is just grateful that somebody has stopped to talk to them. It’s also good to ask if they want something particular to eat or drink.
If someone is not getting any support, I try to point them in the direction of a local day centre that can help them claim benefits, find accommodation and get other practical help for their particular situation. I work for HOPE worldwide Two Step – in 2017 we began several partnerships with day centres so that they could refer people to us for help finding accommodation. This partnership approach is really effective and we housed 16 people referred this way in the last three months of 2017. If you would like to take part in a sponsored walk on Sat 24th 2018 March where you can learn more about how Two Step is helping the homeless and how you can help personally please go to https://www.everydayhero.co.uk/event/TwoSteps2018
How to talk to someone who is street homeless:
Many people on the streets are using day centres and getting some kind of support. If someone is not being helped by any particular organisation and is sleeping rough, you can contact streetlink https://www.streetlink.org.uk/ and also to recommend any local homeless day centres that you know of or can find out about that could help them directly or refer them elsewhere. If you live in London this is a great site and app that you can use to help do this, https://www.nextmeal.co.uk/places
You can search for local homeless services in England here:
Things to remember:
· Make sure that you are not putting yourself in an unsafe situation e.g. by talking to someone who is drunk or in a group of people
· Get on their level and introduce yourself and ask if they are homeless and if anyone is helping them
· Find out about their situation to see what they need help with and perhaps buy them some food or drink and recommend they contact a local day centre.
Is it a good idea to give money?
If people are asking for money, I usually explain that I give money to a homeless charity rather than giving money on the street and offer to buy them something to eat or drink if I have time. I have donated to HOPE worldwide and supported Two Step for many years because the programme is very effective at housing the homeless. (If you would like to support Two Step please go to http://hopeworldwide.org.uk/BBDonate.asp and select Two Step from the Dropdown menu.)
Case Study: Two Step programme
HOPE worldwide’s programme ‘Two Step’ began after two Christians took the step of faith of sleeping on the streets of London for a week in order to meet homeless people, experience homelessness for themselves and understand how to help.
One of the people Two Step housed recently is Bill. Bill was homeless after splitting up with his partner and losing his business. The nights sleeping in the cold were taking their toll and he was desperate for somewhere to live before it got too much. Two Step were able to house him within a few days of his assessment so that he could start rebuilding his life. He is currently on a course to get his construction skills card so that he can begin working again.
How Two step works in partnership with other organisations to house the homeless (see below)
Two Step now works in partnership with many night shelters, charities and local authority projects to help house the homeless –those on the streets and those insecurely housed. This partnership approach is really effective and Two Step now houses around 25 people per month.
Would you like to participate in an event to raise funds and learn more about how you can help?
Two Step are organising a sponsored walk on Saturday 24th March. This is an opportunity to play an active part in addressing homelessness by learning about how to help people personally and by raising money to support the work of Two Step.
For more details or to sponsor a participant, please go to https://www.everydayhero.co.uk/event/TwoSteps2018
You will hear from people who have been homeless and possibly walk alongside them past sights like Trafalgar Square, London eye and the houses of parliament – see photos below from a previous walk and video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPV-qowI3uA
At the reception at the end of the walk, you will learn about how you can talk to and advise someone who is homeless and also of how you could help further e.g. by volunteering in a night shelter. Hope worldwide staff will also outline the plans Two Step has for the future.
Background: What is causing the increase in homelessness?
The rise in homelessness is largely driven by poverty in it’s various forms.
Material poverty means people can’t afford to pay rent or a mortgage. Rents have risen much faster than wages and Housing benefit has been reduced then frozen so it is no surprise that evictions have risen sharply. The end of a private tenancy is now the largest single cause of homelessness.
Poverty of relationships is another huge factor – our society emphasises choice and freedom rather than duty and commitment. Relationship breakdown is the second largest single cause of homelessness.
Many homeless people also have an acute poverty of identity. The longer that someone sleeps rough or lives in poor conditions, the lower their self-esteem and the greater the chance of developing mental health problems.
Behind the statistics and trends, each story is unique. Here are four stories as recorded by the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-42805242/four-stories-of-rough-sleeping-in-england
Being homeless carries significant personal risk. A homeless rough sleeper is 35 times more likely to attempt suicide, 13 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime and 47 times more likely to be a victim of theft. On average, street homeless people die at 47. You can read more about the facts of homelessness here: https://www.homeless.org.uk/facts-figures
Once someone loses their home, they may stay with friends and family for a while but it is often only a matter of time before they will have nowhere left to go. A lot of the people Two Step work with are in this situation and are very grateful that they can be housed before they have to live on the streets and face the risks outlined above. Thanks to all those who support our work!