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All the best ways to help others in the cold weather

The drop in temperatures can push the vulnerable into crisis. Here are practical ways you can help

cold weather help

A cold snap is the perfect time to find your altruistic side. Image: Rev Stan/flickr

Plummeting temperatures might get most people reaching for the heated blanket and oversized scarf. For the most vulnerable, however, the cold weather can turn an already difficult situation into a crisis.

With both food and energy bills significantly more expensive than a year ago, many don’t have the option to whack an extra degree or two on the thermostat.

If you’re in a position to help during the cold weather, you can make a real difference.

Ways you can help others in the cold weather

StreetLink

The cold weather puts those sleeping rough in immediate danger. However, it’s a time when help is available.

If you see somebody in England or Wales on the streets or sleeping rough, contacting StreetLink could help save a life. Use the app or phone line to send details of when and where you have seen somebody, and a description of them. Find out how here.

However, if the person is under 18 or needs immediate help, please call 999.

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If you can’t help them get to a shelter, some items might help

Warm clothing, hot food or a hot drink can make a massive difference to help somebody sleeping on the streets.

If you’re not in a financial position to help in these ways, a compassionate conversation costs you nothing and could lead to other ways to assist.

Volunteering

Yes, the festive period is commonly associated with ungenerous characters: Scrooge and the Grinch are staples of every Christmas. But that doesn’t have to be you.

It’s a great time to get involved with volunteering and make a lasting impact in your community. We’ve put together a guide of opportunities available over the festive period, and one if you’re specifically looking to volunteer on Christmas Day.

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Useful items to donate to food banks during cold weather

For those on the lowest incomes, cold weather makes a tough time even harder to manage. There are certain items which are particularly helpful to donate to a food bank during a cold snap.

Rachel Macklin, head of South England and Wales at the Trussell Trust said: “Food banks are always in need of food donations, like UHT milk, long life fruit juice, tinned meat, fish and veg, sponge puddings, custard and rice pudding. Or also food items that only need a microwave or kettle to cook. 

“Some food banks are also giving out hot water bottles and blankets, but not all would have the capacity to do so, so we would always advise to get in touch with your local food bank to check what they are most in need of.”

Check on your elderly neighbours

To be blunt, dropping temperatures put the elderly in danger. Even at the start of the year, Age UK was warning that soaring energy prices would see pensioners freezing to death in their homes.

So check in on your elderly neighbours. It could be a quick knock on the door and a nice conversation. You could bring them something warm, if they need it, invite them in for a cup of tea, or ask if they need anything from the shops on your way. They’ll be grateful for the help in the cold weather.

BillyChip

The BillyChip is a blue poker chip which can be bought at a coffee shop, supermarket or cafe by a customer, and then given to a person on the street who can in turn exchange it for a hot drink or food item.

It was created by the family of Billy Abernethy-Hope, who died in a motorbike accident in 2018. His idea, a way to help the reluctant give to homeless people, was made a reality by his dad and sister.

“Billy Chip is all about creating compassion, connections and choice for homeless people,” Jon Hope, Billy’s dad, told The Big Issue.

Focused around Bristol and Bath, the scheme is expanding and has recently launched in over 200 Co-op supermarkets.

It’s not available everywhere, and you might prefer giving money directly. But it’s an option for helping someone on the street.

Find participating outlets here.

Give up your spare room

The acute housing crisis means not only are people pushed into homelessness, but those with homes often don’t have any spare space. However, if you do, there are ways to use it for good.

Nightstop, an initiative run by the homelessness charity Depaul, pairs young homeless people with members of the community who can host them.

In 2021, the scheme managed to help 482 people. You can find out more here.

The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future.

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For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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