What should you do if you see a homeless person?

A warm greeting and a word or two can make all the difference

Take a walk around towns and cities in the UK and the 165 per cent rise in rough sleepers since 2010 is quickly apparent. Homelessness is still a very real issue.

The sight of someone living on the streets is commonplace but there are a number of ways where you can have a big impact on someone’s life for a small investment in time.

Taking action on homelessness

Homelessness puts an enormous strain on mental health with long hours of loneliness, isolation and sleep deprivation. The first way to help the homeless is a simple one – speak up! A warm greeting, some simple small talk or even just asking a personal question can make all the difference.

Don’t just take our word for it. The Samaritans highlighted the importance of life-saving questions when it comes to reducing the 279 people who died via suicide on Britain’s railways in 2018/19. The charity’s advice was to ask someone’s name, what train they are planning on getting or even chatting about the weather.

The same applies on the streets – just think that the person that you pass who is living on the streets might not have spoken to anyone that day – just a simple ‘hello, how are you?’ could make an enormous difference to someone’s day. And who knows? Maybe you will take away something that does the same for you.

Homelessness also makes it almost impossible for rough sleepers to access services that those with a secure home can often take for granted. Healthcare can be tricky to get while setting up essential facilities required for work or benefits, like a bank account, are also tough without an address.


The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.

To connect rough sleepers with services that can help in England and Wales, send an alert to StreetLink – an organisation which connects people living on the streets with local authority and outreach teams to get them support.

StreetLink becomes increasingly crucial for homelessness when the temperatures drop as emergency support quickly becomes life-saving. As the weather turns colder this winter, living on the streets becomes ever more dangerous and with 726 homeless deaths in 2018, according to the official count, the need is to protect people on the streets is clear.

Of course, you could always put a homeless person in touch with one of our distribution offices all over the UK to give them the chance to get themselves a hand up, not a hand out.

And if you see any of our vendors out selling the magazine on a pitch near you, a warm word – or even a warm drink – would not go amiss alongside supporting them by buying the magazine.

The Big Issue magazine launched in 1991 in response to the growing number of rough sleepers on the streets of London, by offering people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income through selling a magazine to the public. More than 28 years on, our vendors come from a variety of backgrounds and face the myriad of problems associated with poverty and inequality.

For only £38.99, you can subscribe for 3 months and have a weekly copy of The Big Issue delivered direct to your door.