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 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, which has held an inquiry into Housing First in England.
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.
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 Covid-19 pandemic, Foundation staff worked tirelessly to support 2,110 vendors with more than £1 million 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.
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. The charity aims to end youth homelessness by 2037.
Centrepoint also provides for young people across England while running a homelessness prevention service in Manchester and a national helpline.
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. In the first year of the Everyone In scheme, the charity managed 30 hotels and protected 4,000 people. 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 the 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.
Big Issue Foundation
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London-based charity Glass Door runs the UK’s largest network of open-access shelters for people who are experiencing homelessness.
Before the pandemic the charity ran night shelters which sheltered 170 people from the cold in winter 2019/20.
But Covid-19 has meant a shift to individual rooms to provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
As well as a place to stay out of the cold, Glass Door offers access to vital essentials like food through a network of churches and community centres as well as the possibility to connect to services that will help people to leave homelessness behind for good.
Housing Justice has been supporting grassroots faith and community night shelters for over 60 years.
The charity helps churches and other faith groups mobilise to tackle homelessness and housing need, building on a strong network of churches to provide shelter and a referral network that helps people access wider support for homelessness.
The charity has also played a key role in distributing government funds to other charities during the Covid-19 pandemic. Housing Justice were tasked with handling a £3m fund to help faith, community and voluntary sector organisations switch to provide individual rooms and self-contained accommodation for people experiencing homelessness this winter.
While homelessness can affect almost anyone, some marginalised groups in society are at greater risk of homelessness.
That is why AKT (or the Albert Kennedy Trust as it was previously known) stands up for LGBTQ+ youngsters. According to the charity, as many as a quarter of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ+. This puts them at greater risk of discrimination, family breakdown and even violence.
AKT primarily helps young people aged between 16 and 25 by helping them to stay safe in a crisis, finding emergency accommodation or accessing specialist support to meet their needs.
As well as stepping in when someone is experiencing homelessness, AKT helps them work on getting out of homelessness too by developing skills that allow them to achieve their life goals.
Single Homeless Project
Single Homeless Project (SHP) is a pan-London charity working across all 32 London boroughs helping people into hostels and support housing through to helping people into education, training, and employment.
The charity, which supports over 10,000 people each year, has previously helped people like former Big Issue vendor Patrick Lawson on his journey being trapped in a cycle of homelessness and time in prison to working as a bus driver and beyond.
The charity runs many community support schemes to prevent homelessness as well as a Housing First project for women known as Project Kali. There are even chances for people to grow their skills through SHP’s Opportunities Programme which pairs people experiencing homelessness with professional musicians, sports and art groups.
Accumulate focuses on giving people who have experienced homelessness the chance to develop their art skills with the view to build careers or even just to enjoy the therapeutic and cathartic artistic process.
The charity created the first-ever graphic novel about homelessness in 2020. The Book of Homelessness was put together and illustrated entirely by people who have been without a home themselves. Accumulate held training workshops and classes to develop the book which is available to buy now.
As well as providing the chance for young people living in hostels or temporary accommodation in London to get arty, the charity stayed active during the Covid by sending out art kits to help people tap into their creative side and boost mental health and well-being.
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.