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How to help the homeless this winter

Nearly 70% of the public feel powerless to help homeless people, new survey shows 

Crisis releases figures as it prepares to open its doors to thousands more homeless people this December    

The majority (61%) of Brits feel angry, upset, or frustrated about the state of homelessness across the country, but feel powerless to help, a new survey reveals.

The YouGov poll, which surveyed more than 2,000 people across the country, was commissioned by national homelessness charity Crisis ahead of its urgent Christmas appeal. 

The survey showed that 69% of people feel powerless to help those who are homeless, despite their growing concerns around the country’s homelessness crisis.  

Nearly three quarters (74%) said they are generally worried about homelessness in Britain, with 59% saying they are more worried about the situation now than they were five years ago.

And while most (57%) felt like they should help, almost seven in ten (68%) confessed they usually don’t know what to do when they see someone who is homeless. 

There are 236,000 people experiencing the worst forms of homelessness in Britain today, including those living on the streets, sleeping in cars, trains, and tents, or living in in unsuitable temporary accommodation. 

While the root causes of homelessness can only be tackled by policy changes, Crisis is asking members of the public to be vigilant this winter, providing guidance on how they can help people who have nowhere to turn.

Most importantly if you see someone sleeping rough, you should contact Streetlink (in England & Wales), or the local council in Scotland, to connect that person with the homelessness services in their area. If you have immediate concerns about their welfare, you should call 999.

There are also things you can do depending on what you are comfortable with. Whether you give, or what you give, is of course a personal choice, but ideas include:

· Asking if there is anything they need. It could be a hot drink or food, or some spare change

· Providing blankets or warm clothing, like hats, scarfs, socks or gloves

· Simply stopping for a conversation or offering a kind word – homelessness can be an incredibly isolating experience

The charity is also asking for help to help raise vital funds for its year-round services and its Christmas centres, which provide shelter, warm meals, and vital services to thousands of homeless people over the holidays. The centres also provide vital medical, housing, and other advisory services to help people take their first steps out of homelessness.

The poll also showed that more than half of Brits (54%) feel upset or frustrated with the current situation. Nearly three quarters (74%) said they feel governments across the country could be doing more to end homelessness – something the charity campaigns for year round.

Commenting on the survey, Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “These figures show just how much people care about solving our homelessness crisis and doing something to help those who have nowhere to turn. “Ultimately, homelessness can and must be ended. But until then, Crisis’ Christmas centres are a lifeline for thousands of homeless people across the country who would otherwise be sleeping rough in the bitter cold or trapped in often unsuitable temporary accommodation. 

“That’s why we’re asking people to support our work this Christmas and year round – so we can be there for everyone who needs us, and give people in the most vulnerable circumstances support to leave homelessness behind for good.”

Crisis’ Christmas centres – run by Crisis staff and 11,000 volunteers – run 22nd-29th December across London, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Birmingham and Coventry.

People can support by donating £28.18 at crisis.org.uk/reserveaplace

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