EVERY NIGHT MORE THAN 3500 PEOPLE SLEEP ROUGH IN THE UK.
I’ll just let that sink in.
Now I’ll continue.
This evening I have been sat scrolling through Instagram stories watching everyone talking about getting ready for Santa coming, seeing gorgeous Christmas trees and roaring fires, not to mention gift suggestion after gift suggestion. It’s lovely to see so many people getting excited to spend time with their families, enjoying the festive cheer and its great that many are reiterating the message that its about who is around the tree this year rather than whats under it.
But as I sit here with the heating on and a roof over my head, scrolling through the grossly overpriced tech in the palm of my hand, I can’t help but think about those who don’t have a safe roof over their head let alone anyone around them or gifts underneath the tree. Life may not be a bed of roses but by god am I lucky. I come from a pretty average working class family in the North East and now I live with my partner in a rented 2 bed flat that we cherish. I feel so grateful to have what we do because while we may not own it and whats inside may not be perfect, it is our warm safe space to call our own. So many people don’t have access to the basics that we do and its a damn disgrace that so many people are sleeping rough in the UK. It breaks my heart to see someone sleeping out in the cold and I always wish that I could do more.
I speak about homelessness a lot on my WhatLauraLoves Instagram because its an issue that I really care deeply about. There are so many judgements made about those sleeping on the streets and plenty of misconceptions that in all honesty, anger and upset me when I hear them. People don’t set out to become homeless; often its a mix of life events that result in the loss of a persons home and with that can come the breakdown of their family, income, health, wellbeing and everything around them. Its so important for us all to realise that for the vast majority of us, we’re all only one or two paydays away from becoming homeless. I’ll be the first to admit that I live month to month and if I didn’t get paid, I’d have one month of overdraft to cover me and then I’d be missing my rent payments. It really can happen to absolutely anyone and no one has the right to judge.
We’ve all been through hard times in our lives, some more than others and some people really don’t know they’re born. Having a roof over our head, food in our tummy and a warm bed to sleep in may be taken for granted on the daily but its a huge luxury that so many people are without, as is having a support network around us. Some people literally have no one that they feel as though they can turn to and often come from very turbulent backgrounds; these people really need our help, not to be looked down on or chastised.
Living on the streets is dangerous at any time of the year but especially during the winter time. Imagine lying on the ice cold floor in sub zero temperatures, starving and dehydrated in a city centre, without any protection around you from the elements or other people.
Imagine someone urinating on you for a cheap laugh on their Christmas party night out or being attacked and kicked until your body finally gives up convulsing.
Imagine wandering the streets daily trying to scavenge for necessities, not being able to have a wash or go to the toilet properly, with dignity.
These are experiences that the homeless face day after day, night after night and no one deserves that; no one has intentionally put themselves in that situation and no one deserves to be judged.
The homeless are often forgotten about in society but they are people, just the same as anyone else, just as worthy of love, respect and dignity as anyone else. Yet it feels as though they are helped the least. With the election looming, I look out to see what policies are in place to help these vulnerable members of our community yet I don’t hear them spoken about. The state that our country is in astounds me, with so many people who have homes and full time jobs even turning to food banks and needing extra help. I really feel as though our current government isn’t doing enough to help those in need, whether they’re homeless or otherwise but often its always the same; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The divide between the haves and the have nots gets wider every year and it feels as though the conscience of those in power and those who really can do something about it has dwindled away completely. After all, how can the average privately educated person living in a multimillion pound house in London really know what its like for Steve, 46, living under the railway arch in Newcastle after losing his zero hour contract job and home?
I really feel as though the only way out of this is for us to help one another and to be better citizens within our community. Some people may say that charity begins at home but what about if you don’t have a home? As human beings, its vital that we don’t lose our humanity and together, we are stronger. Supporting one another with our time, resources, skills and listening ears. Lending a hand where needed and being truly grateful for what we already have before rushing out to buy something new. Shopping local when we do need to spend and thinking of charity shops first and foremost as not only are they beneficial to those the charity support but to the environment too. Donating where we can is so important; we may not all have bags of extra cash but a small amount from each of us here and there makes a HUGE difference, as does dropping a can of food into a local food bank when you’ve done your weekly shop.
Whether you’re an active supporter of a cause close to you or you’re feeling inspired to start helping others, there are so many ways that you can get involved and Christmas is the perfect time to start. I implore you to choose the homeless when donating and supporting this Christmas because no one deserves to be left out in the cold. I want to share some ways that you can help the homeless and my experiences of doing so. This doesn’t come from a preaching perspective as I am far from perfect, completely appreciate the position of privilege that I am writing this from and there is ALWAYS more that I could do but I and my family do what we can with what we have and I would encourage you to do the same. There is always something that any one of us can do, however big or small.
WAYS YOU CAN HELP THE HOMELESS THIS WINTER
CALL STREETLINK OR DIAL 999 IN AN EMERGENCY
First of all, if you see someone sleeping rough, especially at this time of the year then it is so important that you send an alert to StreetLink which you can do ONLINE HERE (which is preferable as the telephone can get so busy), over the phone 0300 500 0914 or via the mobile app which is really easy to download and use. Streetlink works to help end homelessness by enabling members of the public to connect rough sleepers with local services that can support them. The details that you provide are sent to the local authority or outreach service who work to try to find the person and support them. I have notified them of people sleeping rough myself and you’re kept informed with updates on the progress.
It is to be used for those over the age of 18 only and should you suspect anyone to be sleeping rough under this age then the first point of contact for you would be the police. In the same way, if you feel as though the person you’re concerned about is in danger or needs urgent care then you would contact 999.
REMEMBER: temperatures PLUMMET at this time of the year.
This could be a matter of LIFE OR DEATH.
You can find out more about Streetlink on their website and you can donate to help them to keep their vital service going HERE (don’t forget to tick the GiftAid box if you’re a UK Tax Payer!).
This month, we have donated £15 as a family of 3 to Streetlink and with the GiftAid, that equates to £18.75. Not a huge sum by any stretch of the imagination but its what we can comfortably afford and the whole point is that every single penny counts. 1 donation from the average person won’t make a massive difference in the long run but collectively, working together, we can make a HUGE change.
You can follow Streetlink on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
DONATE & SHOP IN AN EMMAUS CHARITY SHOP
The charity that we choose to support as a family is Emmaus. You may have seen their shops up and down the country but do you know what they actually do? They’re an amazing social enterprise charity who believe in working together to help to bring an end to homelessness. Rather than giving the homeless a handout, they believe in giving them a hand up, with dignity by providing them with meaningful work, training, support and a stable home for as long as they need it.
We don’t have a large disposable income to be able to donate but we do have a kind heart and choose to donate to their charity shops whenever we have something that we no longer need or want. As they say, one mans trash is another mans treasure! Emmaus have charity shops and food banks; theres one of each in South Shields town centre if you’re local to me but there’s plenty more across the UK. We regularly donate things that we aren’t using and feel so much happier knowing that someone else could really love it, while helping the Emmaus charity; so much stuff ends up in landfill its ridiculous so this is a way to be kind to the environment too. We bring my stepson up to understand that other children aren’t as lucky as him and he will actively ask to donate toys and books that he no longer uses to the shop.
You’re able to donate to Emmaus online too as a one off or as a monthly contribution. As an example, £10 could help to pay for a homeless persons travel to an Emmaus community, £25 could provide 10 hot meals for companions at Emmaus and £40 could pay for essential toiletries for 5 companions.
My best advice when it comes to financial contributions to a charity is to only set up a monthly contribution if you can comfortably afford it every month without going overdrawn or risk the payment returning back to you and you getting a bank charge. If you can comfortably afford the donation then go for it as it is an incredible way to help a charity regularly, however if you can’t then simply don’t. Your one off donation as and when you can give, will be of vital help to a charity in just the same way as a regular donation would, whether its pennies or pounds. It could be that you save up your change or pop it in a donation box when you see one or that you transfer a little into a savings account and then donate online, or simply if you have a little left one month you could go online to donate.
One of the things that I do specifically is I don’t buy and send many Christmas cards anymore. I have a few left over from a big box I bought years ago that I use if I really need to but otherwise, I donate the money I would have spent on those to charity instead. Let’s face it, if someone you’re giving a Christmas card to is only going to chuck it out, then that money really could be better spent, or rather donated elsewhere and a charity like Emmaus can really feel the benefit of that.
This year, as a family we have chosen to donate £15, a fiver for each of us, like with Streetlink. Again, it isn’t huge sums but every penny counts
You can follow Emmaus on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. If you’re in the North East, the local Emmaus Instagram is here, which is a great way to find out what is happening in the local area. I was asked to donate my time and some social media coverage to help them in September during their Recycle Week campaign which was amazing to be apart of. I got to meet some of the team and it was great to see the incredible work that they do as well as have a good look through the Low Fell shop. Now that there’s one in South Shields, we don’t have to go far at all to donate and shop!
BUY THE HOMELESS CHRISTMAS DINNER IN NEWCASTLE
An amazing initiative set up by the Peoples Kitchen, a charity made up of volunteers, is to buy a local homeless or vulnerable person Christmas dinner. It costs just £5 to buy someone in need a 3 course dinner and its likely to be the only hot meal on Christmas Day. We did this through the NE Offers site HERE. Again £15 which will pay for 3 homeless people to have Christmas dinner. You can’t help everyone in life but if you can do a little you can make a big difference to someones life, wellbeing and happiness, especially when everyone comes together to help.
SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Not everyone can afford to donate money to charity or to buy extra items with their weekly shop from a food bank- many are turning to them themselves. However what we can all do is help to spread the word whether its on social media, face to face or in whatever way we can in our local towns.
I really hope that this post helps to inspire someone out there to donate, share and give what they can this Christmas.
Thank you for reading.
Great post Laura, beautifully written and thought provoking. I think people forget that the homeless are people too, their lives seem a world away from ours (those of us with homes, heating, food etc) but as you say we’re all just a couple of paychecks away from finding ourselves in dire circumstances. I support homeless charities and I buy coats from charity shops to hand out to people living on the streets. It’s a little thing that can mean a lot to that one person who’s down on their luck.
In tears reading this. You’re so right, it’s so important to help. I live in Sheffield and I sometimes think family and friends who live in towns and villages just don’t see how many people there are sleeping rough. Thank you for the resources, I’ll definitely look into them. I’m freezing and I’m inside with the heating on, can’t imagine what it’s like to be out in this weather.