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Across the UK, there are a large number of charities working at a local and national level to fight homelessness and help the homeless. These charities provide help and advice for people who are rough sleeping, in temporary, insecure or unsuitable accommodation or at risk of becoming homeless.
Charities have been at the forefront of the response to homelessness and rough sleeping during the Covid-19 crisis. St Mungo’s, Glass Door and a host of other charities across England protect rough sleepers through the government’s Everyone In scheme during the first national lockdown and have continued to help people into long-term homes throughout the year.
Charities have also been central to operations in Scotland and Wales, providing support care and food to rough sleepers protected from the virus in hotels and other emergency accommodation.
Homelessness remains a problem in the UK and charities are at the forefront of efforts to end it for good.
The vital outreach work that many charities do is often the first contact that people living with homelessness have with support services. St Mungo’s also plays a role in counting how many people are out on the streets – managing the Combined Homeless and Information Network that tracks rough sleeping in London. In 2019/20, 10,726 people were seen on the streets by outreach workers in the English capital.
As for official rough sleeping stats, they show 4,226 people were counted as living on the streets across England in autumn 2019, compared to 405 people in Wales. Scotland doesn’t use the same one-night snapshot counting system but it is estimated just over 700 people bed down on the streets in a single night.
While the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on these figures is still ongoing, charities will continue to be called upon to support people who find themselves facing homelessness as well as campaigning for wider change.
Just as each person who becomes homeless will have different needs, so each charity within the homelessness sector offers specific and specialist services. Support offered by these charities includes help and advice for people facing homelessness; access to emergency or temporary accommodation; housing and legal advice; assistance getting into education, employment or training; help setting up bank accounts and accessing benefits and support; a safe space; help with drug and alcohol dependency; advocacy and fighting for political solutions to rising levels of homelessness.
The big national homeless charities in the UK include:
Crisis was founded in 1967 and offers direct help to people facing homelessness. The charity also campaigns to find solutions to problems around homelessness in the UK.
The charity offers education, employment, housing and well-being services from as well as one-to-one support, advice and courses for homeless people in 12 areas across England, Scotland and Wales., Crisis commissions and conducts research to help document UK homelessness via its knowledge hub and find solutions to critical issues around housing and homelessness.
Crisis has played a significant role in the Covid-19 response to protecting rough sleepers. Chief executive Jon Sparkes led Scotland’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group which reconvened during the crisis to recommend measures for the Scottish Government to adopt in the wake of Covid-19. In Westminster, Crisis is also at the crux of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness. The group is currently carrying out a Housing First inquiry which is assessing how the model – that has seen success in tackling rough sleeping in Scotland, Finland and elsewhere – can be implemented more widely across the UK.
Shelter offers advice, information, representation and advocacy to people who are homeless, in unsuitable or insecure housing, or at risk of becoming homeless via an online support network as well as advice and support services.
Alongside this work, Shelter campaigns on issues in the housing and homelessness sectors – including their commission that assessed how many social homes are needed to tackle the housing crisis.
Shelter joined forces with The Big Issue during 2020’s Covid-19 response as part of our Ride Out Recession Alliance to prevent homelessness and protect jobs. The charity has continued to call for new social housing throughout the crisis and it is their long-term goal to see 3.1 million social homes built over the next 20 years. But the devastating scale of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen Shelter call for greater urgency on the issue.
The Big Issue Foundation
The Big Issue Foundation was founded in 1995 to offer outreach work to vendors. Their work includes helping vendors get to housing meetings or job interviews, open bank accounts or get passports, access health care, reconnect with estranged family members or friends, acquire skills to get back into employment, training and education, make the move from the street to hostel, hostel to temporary accommodation or on to something more permanent – before helping out with the essentials to set up home.
It is tough work, helping people who are often excluded from mainstream society and disadvantaged in multiple ways. But The Big Issue Foundation ensures that, as well as the income they receive from selling The Big Issue, our vendors receive the support they need to move forward in their lives – including helping to set up vendors with ID and bank accounts so they can now take cashless payments and are part of the modern digital economy.
Throughout the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Foundation staff worked tirelessly to support 1,600 vendors with almost half a million pounds in cash, supermarket vouchers and energy meter and phone credit top-ups. They also helped vendors keep in contact with phones, laptops and other devices and to meet specialised needs, including providing books, craft materials and even a rowing machine to help a vendor with their physical needs.
That work has continued since vendors returned to the streets on July 6, providing vendors with PPE and equipment to sell the magazine safely and to let customers buy the magazine with confidence.
Centrepoint offers homeless young people accommodation, physical and mental health support, and skills and advice to help them back into education, employment and training.
The charity supports more than 14,000 young people aged 16-25 in London, Manchester, Yorkshire and the North East of England. Young people are able to stay with Centrepoint for up to two years with 88 per cent then going on to move into their own homes, reconnect with their families, get their first jobs or go to university.
Centrepoint also provides more than 1,000 bed spaces for young people from the 60 accommodation services across England while running a homelessness prevention service in Manchester, a national helpline and even operating England’s Homeless World Cup team.
Depaul UK is part of Depaul International, a global network whose work ranges from providing safe shelter, accommodation, food and health services to helping people affected by homelessness receive education, employment and the social services they need.
Through its work in some of the UK’s most disadvantaged communities, Depaul aims to prevent homelessness and provide support to vulnerable young people, offering emergency accommodation and longer-term housing, as well as outreach services to help young people in crisis.
Depaul UK also co-ordinates the national Nightstop UK service, which aims to place young people facing rough sleeping, sofa surfing or unsuitable accommodation with approved and vetted volunteers – ensuring they have a secure and safe room for the night.
St Mungo’s is a homelessness charity providing outreach, support and shelter for homeless people. The charity, which was established in 1969, has services across the south of England, working to help people rebuild lives, but also to improve understanding of homelessness, and empathy towards people who are homeless.
St Mungo’s played a pivotal role in the Covid-19 response to protect rough sleepers, managing 27 hotels and protecting 3,000 people during the Everyone In scheme. The charity also coordinates the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), a multi-agency database that provides a comprehensive count of the number of rough sleepers coming into contact with outreach workers in London.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army runs hostels, drop-in centres and does frontline work with rough sleepers, as well as offering a range of other services across the UK. This can include outreach services, night shelters, addiction services, and they charity is also among the first to offer some Housing First projects and case workers in a bid to end the cycle of homelessness and poverty for some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
The Salvation Army’s 80 ‘Lifehouses’ are intended to offer support that goes beyond a place to stay, also tackling issues with housing, employment, debt problems, training, spirituality, loneliness, addiction or mental health to get people off the street in the long-term.
Emmaus supports people on their way out of homelessness, providing meaningful work and housing in a community setting. Through social enterprises, Emmaus raises funds for food, accommodation and a small living allowance for its ‘companions’. The work includes refurbishing and selling donated furniture and household goods in their shops and showrooms, running cafes, house clearance businesses and gardening projects. Their research shows that 79 per cent of companions who have lived at Emmaus for a few months consider the chance to work the most beneficial part of their experience.
Homeless Link works with other charities and organisations within the homelessness sector to try to improve services, while also working with local and national government to improve policies. The charity also campaigns for policy change that will contribute to ending homelessness and innovate and develop tools that help other organisations, such as Streetlink.
Streetlink connects rough sleepers to homelessness services. The charity runs a website, app and phone line enabling concerned members of the public to report rough sleepers in England and Wales – the information is then passed on to the local authority outreach teams, who will attempt to contact the individual and connect them with vital services.
Big Issue vendors need your help now more than ever. More than 1,000 vendors are out of work because of the second lockdown in England. They can’t sell the magazine and they can’t rely on the income they need.
The Big Issue is helping our vendors with supermarket vouchers and gift payments but we need your help to do that.
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Thank you all so much for your ongoing support.