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15 ways to help the homeless in London

From pay-it-forward coffee schemes to sponsoring a room in a shelter, there are loads of ways to do your bit for those in need

By Kate Lloyd and Claire Wong

Want to do something to help the homeless but not sure where to start? There are loads of great initiatives in London to help people in need. Ordering baked goods from a bakery that employs people who've experienced homelessness, going to a supper club that helps people in  temporary accommodation and sponsoring a room in a shelter are just some of the ways you can help. Read on for more small things you can do that'll make a big difference to someone in need.

Illustrations: Sophie Cunningham

Cover your presents in fancy paper from Wrapping Up

Whatever you’re planning to stick under the tree this year, make it look extra special by wrapping it in paper designed by one of the world’s best creative agencies. There are only 200 sheets of each hand-screen-printed design available from Wrapping Up. It’s pricey but it’s worth it, because all proceeds go to London charity Wrap Up, which provides vulnerable people with warm clothes in the winter months.

Order a batch of brownies from Rise bakery

Got a sweet tooth? Get your sugar fix from Rise, a Brick Lane bakery that works with charity Providence Row to employ and support people who have experienced homelessness. The bakery delivers sweet treats to your door – for £14.95, you can order a box of Rise brownies made from locally sourced ingredients. A feelgood treat that doesn’t even require you to leave the house.


Eat at Barrafina and other fancy restaurants

As well as those dreamy small plates, there’s now another reason to brave the queue for Barrafina. It’s one of the many ace restaurants working with StreetSmart, a clever scheme that asks eateries to add a voluntary £1 donation to all bills in November and December. The list also includes 10 Greek Street, Hoppers, Mildreds and Rovi, and all funds raised go towards supporting the homeless.

Buy a pay-it-forward coffee at Second Shot

Restaurants Coffeeshops Bethnal Green

Not only does Second Shot Coffee in Bethnal Green make a mean flat white, the social enterprise runs a super-easy ‘pay it forward’ scheme. Customers can pre-pay for items like hot drinks, cakes and meals for people who can’t afford them. More than 5,500 coffees and 2,500 meals have been donated so far.


Convince your local caff to donate leftovers to City Harvest

Ever wondered what happens to the food left over in restaurants at the end of the day? Ask your local café what they do with it. If they’re chucking away excess ingredients, they might want to team up with City Harvest. The organisation collects surplus food from restaurants, grocers and caterers then delivers it all to 240 organisations that feed the city’s most vulnerable people.

Sponsor a room at Centrepoint

According to youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, 86,000 young people were homeless or at risk of homelessness in 2016-17. You can help provide a safe place to stay by sponsoring a room at a Centrepoint shelter for just 40p a day. The residents will also be given counselling and taught skills they need to find and stay in employment.


Buy an original work from Café Art

Café Art is a charity that gets work by people affected by homelessness hung in indie cafés across the city, and up for sale. You can buy your own original artwork – with profits going directly to the artist – or snap up the organisation’s annual photography calendar, ‘My London’, featuring pictures taken by homeless Londoners. Either will do a great job filling that boring blank wall in your flat with a purchase to be proud of.

Have your Christmas party at Brigade

Bars and pubs Borough and London Bridge

With a decadent Christmas menu and a feasting room that holds up to 16 people, chic London Bridge restaurant Brigade ( is an ideal spot for a festive catch-up. As well as scoffing posh roast potatoes and Christmas pud with vanilla brandy custard, you’ll be supporting a social enterprise that has got thousands of homeless people into hospitality training and hundreds into employment. Now that’s the Christmas spirit.


Offer up your spare room via Nightstop

If you’re lucky enough to own your own place, consider becoming a Nightstop host to help homeless Londoners directly. The service provides emergency accommodation to young people at risk of homelessness by finding them a spare room in the homes of volunteers. All you need to do to get put on the rota is sign up for some training from the organisation.

Go to a supper club run by Fat Macy’s

Things to do Food and drink events Trafalgar Square

Fat Macy’s is known for two things. One: supporting young Londoners living in temporary accommodation to move into their own homes. Two: incredible supperclubs that you’ll be dreaming about for weeks afterwards. It’s running festive specials at Good & Proper Tea Co in Clerkenwell throughout December. Genuinely cockle-warming stuff.



Buy someone a hot meal through The Canvas Café

Things to do Event spaces Spitalfields

Vegan eatery The Canvas Café doesn’t just serve up tasty grub like pulled jackfruit sandwiches, not-meatball marinara sandwiches and ‘to-fish’ and chips. It also gives customers the chance to donate £10 (at the café or online) to provide a home-cooked hot meal for someone in need.

Buy a vital gift from Linkey

Take a break from frantic Christmas shopping and visit Linkey’s digital store, launched by two siblings from Barnet a year ago. You can buy essential items, such as toiletry kits, underwear and sleeping bags, for people staying in shelters all over central London. It’s a bit like doing Secret Santa, except you’ll be buying someone something useful.


Volunteer at The Choir with No Name

Ever wondered why belting out ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ in the shower felt so good? It’s been proved that singing literally makes you happier (no really, they’ve done brain scans and everything). Get on board that endorphin train by helping out with The Choir with No Name. The singing group for homeless people needs volunteers in the kitchen, so you can cook up a storm while you hum along.

Get your coffee fix from Change Please

Restaurants Coffeeshops Canary Wharf

Buy a cup of joe from Change Please and you’ll get more than a caffeine hit. The coffee carts are popping up all over London and they’re run by members of the homeless community. The sellers are trained as baristas, paid the London Living Wage and offered support with housing and mental wellbeing. So you can get buzzed knowing that your morning brew is helping to get at-risk Londoners off the streets.


Join a members’ club with a heart

Bars and pubs Members' clubs Soho

Yes, members’ clubs have a reputation for being either stuffy or achingly cool, but The House of St Barnabas does things a bit differently. Housed in a grand old Grade I-listed building in Soho, the club runs a programme that provides people who’ve experienced homelessness with a mentor, work experience, CV workshops and stress-management training. Sounds like our kind of club – where do we sign up?


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