Christmas is a time when those sleeping rough on the streets are particularly in people’s minds. Most of us want to do something but find it hard to know exactly what is best. Over the next few days we will be running a series of articles from HOPE Worldwide. The LHF is proud to support HOPE Worldwide in the work they do – and we thought that this short article about how to talk to someone on the streets was very practical and helpful. We are grateful for their permission to re post it.
How to talk to someone on the street
Our hearts are stirred when we see people sitting or sleeping on our streets. If we don’t really know how to help, we can feel the temptation to walk by or just give money. Is there a better way?
Homelessness is very isolating. Those who are on the street can feel invisible. Rather than walking by, you can start by getting down on their level, introducing yourself and ask about their situation. Many people on the streets are using day centres and getting some kind of support; others might need some advice about how to get help or would just appreciate somebody taking the time to talk and listen to them.
How to offer help
If someone is not being helped by any particular organisation and is sleeping rough, you can contact streetlink.org.uk/ . You can also to recommend any local homeless day centres that you know of or can find out about that could help them directly or refer them elsewhere including to Two Step if they are suitable for our service. (See nextmeal.co.uk for details of local sources of help in London and homeless.org.uk/ for organisations in the whole of England.)
One of our supporters recently spoke to a gentleman in his 50s who was sleeping in a hospital waiting area in North London. She advised the person to go to the local council for help and the council referred him to HOPE worldwide. We helped him to get a place in a night shelter and to find accommodation about a week later.
Make sure that you are not putting yourself in an unsafe situation e.g. by talking to someone who is drunk or in a group of people. You can use the acronym ALERT to help you talk to those who are homeless.
Ask – Get on their level, introduce yourself and ask if they are homeless and if anyone is helping them. If they are not, they might benefit from being directed to a local project that can help them claim benefits for example.
Listen – Many people are happy to share their story of what happened and what they are trying to do about it. They may request something in particular that you can get them – better to ask than to assume.
Empathise – Empathy and compassion are very powerful. Many people become homeless because of things beyond their control. Even if you can’t help directly, people will appreciate that you took the time to listen and empathise.
Respond – Depending on what they share you might be able to do something. Share what you can do (see below) and ask them if they would like you to do that.
Take Action – You could do something there and then e.g. give them some information or get them something they would like to eat or drink. You could also do a bit of research to find out about local organisations at nextmeal.co.uk or www.homeless.org.uk/ You could also send an alert to ‘Streetlink’ using streetlink.org.uk/
In addition, many people are not aware that under the Homelessness Reduction Act, local authorities have a legal duty to offer meaningful advice and assistance to those that are facing homelessness. Click/tap Get help to read about the assistance that local authorities are supposed to provide.
Where is a local day centre in London?
For more information about HOPE Worldwide go to https://www.twostep.org.uk/. For more information about the Atlas go to https://lhf.org.uk/atlas/