How to

13 December 2016

How to Help Homeless Britons Stay Warm This Winter

In a recent interview, Desiree Shepherd, manager of the Vineyard Community Centre in Richmond, London, claimed that although the easiest thing to do when trying to help homeless Britons in cold weather is to give them spare change or cash of some other kind, such giving is ‘in fact not helpful, and [can even be] detrimental in many cases.’ So, what are the most effective ways to help homeless people stay warm this winter?

Buy Hot Food
If you feel like giving to help make things a little easier, why not forego change-giving and instead provide a hot meal? City streets are packed with fast food restaurants and other establishments which can give you warm food for relatively little money; even corner shops nowadays sell tea, coffee and biscuits. It can make a difference, and it only takes a couple of minutes more than putting change in a cup. That said, it’s probably best to ask first; after all, the person might have allergies.

Donate Warm Clothing or a Tent
As Shepherd mentioned in the interview above, ‘We can’t keep up with the demand for warm clothing during the winter here - we need gloves, socks and thermals. We did not have any to give last year, and it’s imperative in the winter months.’ Giving warm clothes either through a charitable organisation or in person is another sure-fire way to make a tangible difference to somebody’s life, albeit in a modest way. Indeed, for a longer-term investment, Shepherd suggests that giving a tent is also a great idea in terms of providing shelter during winter.

Donate to Homelessness Charities 
Homelessness is not necessarily a state of having too little money, but rather of lacking the basic amenities like beds, warm showers and safe places which others can take for granted on a daily basis. Whilst a project like Shower to the People (which saw a St Louis man convert a van into a safe, mobile shower for up to 60 homeless people per day) are yet to reach the UK in earnest, many organisations exist around the country offering more static services. Some have specialisations in winter care for homeless people, like Streets Kitchen in Manchester, the Hackney Winter Night Shelter in London or Wintercomfort in Cambridge; but to find even more organisations local to you, you can consult the CharityChoice website, where it’s possible to search the many charitable organisations across Britain by theme and region.

Bus Passes
Finally, as 48-year-old Stew told the Huffington Post, gifting a weekly or monthly bus pass to a homeless person can make a real difference: ‘when you’ve got a bus pass you can get to where the food is,’ he claimed ‘and being on a bus - you’re in a shelter.’

There are many ways to help keep homeless people warm during winter, of which donating food, clothes, tents, money and travel cards to organisations and charities which specialise in such areas are only a few. All can potentially make a tangible difference in terms of affecting real, warm-keeping change; and all would be a great Christmas present this year. 

James Stannard

James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.