Give Up Your Old Coats
There are some people who like to buy a new coat every winter. And who could blame them – of course you want to stay on top of the latest trends. But if you’ve now got an abundance of winter warmers just taking up space on your coat rack, plenty of places now run coat exchanges, where you can take down your old outerwear and place it on a rail, for homeless people to come and pick up should they need one. Calling London run an annual coat collection, as does the city’s Wrap Up scheme.
Get On Your Phone
StreetLink is a great tool for those who have spotted a rough sleeper and feel a bit helpless about what to do next. All you need to do is make an account with them, and then follow their easy steps to help that homeless person get a roof over their head for the night. There’s a number of simple steps on both their app and their website, which include letting them know when and where you saw the person, and any other identifying details, such as hair colour, skin colour, gender or the clothes they’re wearing. Or, alternatively, you can save their number in your phone and speak to one of their specialist homelessness outreach teams whenever you need to. If you don’t live in England, Ireland and Scotland also have their own versions of StreetLink.
Around the festive period, there’s nothing better than a bit of retail therapy – and it feels even better when it’s for a good cause. Crack + Cider (named as such after a homeless person said: “People don’t give me money because they just think I'll spend it on crack and cider.”) has a range of items that you can buy, which its creators, Scarlett Montanaro and Charlotte Cramer, then distribute among homeless people in London and Bournemouth. Their collections range from as little as a hat, gloves and socks set from £7 to a ‘Warm and Dry’ set, which includes an umbrella, backpack, waterproof jacket zip fleece, and a thermal hat, gloves and socks. Plus, there’s a cute canine care pack for man’s best friend, too. And, of course, the Big Issue shop has some really nice gifts for loved ones too. Their suppliers are committed to creating opportunities for disadvantaged people, and 70% of the money from those gifts goes towards those who need it most.
Offer A Hot Drink
When it’s cold out, we all know there’s nothing better than a nice cup of tea to warm us up. So if you’re popping into Pret for one yourself, why not ask a homeless person if there’s anything they would like whilst you’re in there. It might be a hot drink, or a sandwich or even just any spare change, but at least you’d be giving someone something they really want or need.
Stop For A Chat
Grabbing a couple of cuppas is the perfect way to strike up a conversation – Crisis say we must remember that homelessness is a particularly isolating experience, and a few nice words might completely change someone’s day.
If you’ve got bit of spare time over Christmas but aren’t sure what to do with it, homeless charities are always on the hunt for volunteers – particularly over the festive period. Whether you just want to help dish out dinner on Christmas Day or have a particular skill to bring to the table, there’s something for everyone. Crisis are on the look-out for everything from healthcare professionals to provide services such as podiatry and dental care, to activity-based leaders to run sports and arts classes, to stylists able to provide free haircuts.
Of course, if you’re a bit short on time this Christmas, then you can always donate. Just giving £28.18 to Crisis will secure a spot for a homeless person to have a Christmas dinner, which includes food, a bed for the night, a shower, health check-up, expert help for mental health and advice on housing, employment and benefits. With Shelter, you can make a one-off donation or set up a monthly debit, where every pound you give is split into two: 79p towards helping people directly, and 21p on fundraising.
An remember, helping the homeless isn’t just for Christmas – all of these things are helpful all year round. Visit Crisis, Shelter and Centrepoint for more ideas on how you can help.