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 134 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 is 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 273 people who died via suicide on Britain’s railways in 2016/17. 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 – but there is a significant barrier to be overcome, with Street Soccer Scotland reporting that 41 per cent of the people they surveyed were “fearful” of approaching homeless people with 16-to-24 year olds the least likely to stop for a chat.

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 is a multi award-winning magazine, edited by the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) current Editor of the Year.

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. The need for the service was immediately apparent when the Beast from the East battered the UK in February 2018 with a record 3,600 alerts across the country in seven days while 13,600 Brits signed up to the service.

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. Twenty-five years on, our vendors come from a variety of backgrounds and face the myriad of problems associated with poverty and inequality.