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How to help London’s homeless people in winter

As the weather in London gets colder, here are some simple ways to help people sleeping rough in the city

Homelessness in London
Photograph: Diana Vucane/Shutterstock.com
By Lucy Lovell |
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Homelessness is one of the biggest issues facing London today. And as the weather gets colder, more and more people are asking how they can help. 

Shelter estimates that there are 280,000 people across England who are homeless, with thousands more at risk. And London – with its notoriously sky-high property prices – is the hardest hit, with a shocking 1 in 52 people now homeless in the capital. 

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of such devastating figures. But fear not Londoners, there are simple and easy ways that you can help. From buying a coffee from a café that trains rough sleepers to be top baristas to helping a someone use a website that flags up free accommodation nearby, here are just some of the ways you can help tackle homelessness in London. 

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How to help the homeless in London

Homelessness in London
Photograph: Chrispictures/Shutterstock.com

Contact StreetLink

Tell StreetLink the location of an adult sleeping rough and the info will be passed on to local outreach workers on the ground. Volunteers will then find them and provide expert support. If they’re under 18, contact the police. And remember, if the person who is homeless needs medical attention fast then call 999. Download the StreetLink app, call the charity on 0300 500 0914, or visit its website.

Sponsor a room

Centrepoint provides safe, warm rooms for people aged 16-25 who find themselves homeless. Once they have a bed, the charity helps them plan their next move into independent living, and also hosts cooking and budgeting classes. Visit its website for more information about what you can do to help, including sponsoring a room for 40p a day.

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Eggs & Bread
Photograph: Ben Rowe
Restaurants, Cafés

Find someone a free brekkie

Walthamstow

It might not seem like much, but sometimes egg ’n’ soldiers with a cuppa can make the world of difference to a homeless person. If you know someone sleeping rough who needs a hot meal, direct them to Eggs & Bread, the cosy Walthamstow café that welcomes anyone who needs it to come in and cook themselves breakfast using its ingredients. Other free food options can be found on this blog, which details where to find free meals and soup kitchens around London. What a bunch of good eggs.

Volunteering, soup kitchen
Photograph: Shutterstock

Volunteer

Short on cash to donate? Why not spare some time instead? Visit www.london.gov.uk for a list of voluntary roles, which include everything from StreetLink outreach worker to stock sorter for donated clothes. You can also contact local services directly, like The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which is looking for outreach volunteers. Better than another night in watching Netflix, eh? 

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Change Please
Photograph: Transport for London

Make your coffee count

Swerve the big coffee chains and visit Change Please, a collection of coffee carts staffed by formerly homeless folks. Backed by The Big Issue magazine, this social enterprise empowers the homeless community by training them to be top baristas. Now your brew doesn’t just taste good, it does good. Visit the website to find your nearest branch.

Eat brownies

Yep, you heard. Order a tray of gooey goodness from Rise Bakery, an arm of the East End charity Providence Row that helps more than 1,600 homeless people a year in London get back on their feet. The bakery provides training and work skills, while profits go back into the charity. Go to town on their brilliant baked goodies, like orange and coconut blondies and mocha brownies.

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Food bank in London
Photograph: HASPhotos/Shutterstock.com

Donate to a foodbank

Okay, so you’re living off Rise Bakery brownies now. Better donate the rest of your grub to a foodbank. Over 90 percent of food in a foodbank is donated by the public, says The Trussell Trust, which has many across London, and it’s easy to find one near you using this interactive map. You could call in advance to see if there’s any particular food  that’s running low.

fat macy's
Photograph: Fat Macy's

Go to a supper club

A supper club with a difference, Fat Macy’s has a mission to get people out of hostels and into permanent homes – and to serve tasty food along the way. The social enterprise trains formerly homeless people as chefs, with a view to giving them a clear pathway into work for the future. Its Hackney supper clubs serve five tasty courses of seasonal produce. Find tickets for the next dinner here.

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Help someone find a safe place to sleep

Homeless Link is like Wikipedia for rough sleepers – you can find anything on there. If you can, help someone find a safe place to sleep. Pull up the interactive map on your phone, and it’ll show you accommodation nearby, plus a list of entry requirements for each place.

Fabric
Photograph: Sarah Ginn

Dance and donate

Visit Fabric anytime between now and Sunday February 2 with some clean clothes to donate and you’ll get a free drink in return. Its Dance and Donate campaign is looking for jackets, coats, sweaters, shoes, shirts, trousers, bags, skirts and bras especially. Drop ’em off at the collection point and hit the dancefloor with a (reasonably) clear conscience. 

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Buy art

Last year 100 disposable cameras were given to people who were homeless or getting off the streets. The photos are incredibly beautiful and they’ve been compiled into a calendar that’s a love letter to London, with all profits reinvested in the cause. This is just one project by Café Art, the social enterprise and gallery which displays the work of people who have experienced homelessness first hand. Check out its website for more original artworks and inspiring projects.

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