What should you do if you see a homeless person?

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

You can help people help themselves out of homelessness by supporting your local vendor and signing up for a subscription to The Big Issue, where every purchase goes towards supporting The Big Issue’s mission to help the most vulnerable people in the UK to improve their lives.

Homelessness has become a clearly visible issue on Britain’s streets in recent years and it remains a very real issue. Official figures showed that 4,266 people slept rough in England according to the official count in 2019, representing a nine per cent decrease on the year before. But that figure is still 141 per cent higher than when the counts began in 2010

Despite efforts to protect rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic, homelessness remains a real issue with the number of rough sleepers encountered in London up by a third between April and June, according to CHAIN figures counted by multiple outreach groups.

As well as other types of homelessness, 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.

What do you say to a homeless person?

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.

Homelessness puts an enormous strain on mental health with long hours of loneliness, isolation and sleep deprivation.

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.

What would you ask a homeless person?

As well as asking how they are doing, you could also see if they need any help with anything.

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.

DID YOU KNOW…

Our vendors buy every copy of the magazine from us for £1.50 and sell it on to you for £3. Which is why we ask you to ALWAYS take your copy of the magazine. We believe in trade not aid.

If you are told about these problems and you are 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 reach 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 to protect people on the streets is clear.

What is the best thing to give a homeless person?

Life on the streets is tough and some of the challenges change from season to season.

In the winter, give a warm drink, warm clothing and other things that insulate from the cold if you are unable to help get the person to shelter.

Summer can be just as difficult with no place to get out of the sun. So consider offering high-factor sunscreen – which can often be expensive – and water to rough sleepers to protect them from the heat.

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

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 too.

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.

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