Which charities are fighting homelessness in the UK?

The big charities working with homeless people and campaigning to end homelessness in Britain

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.

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.

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 centres in London, Newcastle, Oxford, Edinburgh and Merseyside. In addition, Crisis commissions and conducts research to help document UK homelessness via its knowledge hub and find solutions to critical issues around housing and homelessness.

In June 2018, Crisis will publish an ambitious report written in consultation with experts from the homelessness sector at home and abroad. The report outlines a plan to end homelessness focusing on best practice including the Housing First approach. They say: “Ending homelessness doesn’t mean that no one will ever lose their home again – it means it rarely happens, and there’s a quick solution at hand when it does.”

Housing is also the focus of Crisis’ work in 2019 and they are urging the government to restore housing benefit to levels that pay for rent. Their Cover the Cost campaign is asking the government to make the change after the benefit freeze ends in April 2020.


Homelessness charity Shelter was founded in 1966, coincidentally, just weeks after the first airing of Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home on BBC television highlighted issues around homelessness.

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.

Of the people helped by Shelter in 2017/18, 44 per cent had issues with their tenancy or landlord, 46 per cent needed to find somewhere to live, 18 per cent live in an unsafe house or area, 48 per cent were facing eviction and 49 per cent were struggling to cope on a daily basis.


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.


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 9,200 young people aged 16-25 in London, Manchester, Yorkshire and the North East of England. It also provides more than 1,000 bed spaces for young people from the 60 accommodation services it runs in Sunderland, Bradford, Manchester, Barnsley and 14 boroughs in London.


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.

The Big Issue Foundation holds many flagship fundraising events such as The Big London Night Walk, The Big Sleep Out and the London to Paris Cycle Challenge
The Big Issue Foundation holds many flagship fundraising events such as The Big London Night Walk, The Big Sleep Out and the London to Paris Cycle Challenge


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.


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.


Emmaus supports people on their way out of homelessness, providing meaningful work and housing in a community setting. Through social enterprises, Emmaus raises the 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.


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.


Streetlink connects rough sleepers to homelessness services. The charity runs a website, app and phoneline 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.

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.

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