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5 ways to help people experiencing homelessness

Words by Abi Scaife

Many of us feel helpless when we see someone experiencing homelessness. It can be hard to figure out how to help without making anyone feel uncomfortable or overstepping - and that’s an understandable way to feel. If that’s the boat you’re in then, trust us, you aren’t alone.

That’s why we created this guide of things you can do if you want to help someone you believe is currently experiencing homelessness.

The important thing to remember is to have a compassionate and non-judgmental conversation with people before doing anything else - and if you see anyone in immediate distress or danger, to call the appropriate emergency services. Additionally, if you’ve seen someone under-18, please notify the police.


Ultimately, sometimes the best help you can give someone is to direct them to professionals who have the right resources. Take a look around online and see what homeless shelters, temporary accommodations and charities are working in your area and collate the information.

It doesn’t take long to create an information card online - and you can get them pretty cheaply, too. Make a few that include telephone numbers and physical addresses and, if you meet someone sleeping rough or experiencing homelessness, you can hand them the card.


We’ve written about the Billy Chip once before at Smiley News, but we think it’s so good it deserves mentioning again!

The Billy Chip is similar to a pay it forward scheme that many restaurants and takeaways employ. At participating places anyone can buy a number of Billy Chips and hand them out to people to be traded in for a hot or cold drink, at a minimum, but many shops will include food as well.


Experiencing homelessness can put a huge strain on mental health - and a lot of that comes from loneliness and isolation. The Big Issue suggests that one of the best things you can do to give people a boost is to just engage with them in conversation as you would with anyone else.

From here, they may tell you if there’s any other way you can help them - or if they just want to talk. Striking up a conversation with someone experiencing homelessness is no different to doing so with anyone else, and just as fulfilling.


The most helpful things you can do is often dependent on what is going on outside. If it is in winter, consider asking people if they want a warm drink or meal, or carry around a few extra pairs of socks or gloves to give out. Alternatively, if it’s in summer, offer water and other cold drinks to keep people cool, as well as sun cream.


If you see someone sleeping rough or experiencing homelessness, especially if you see them in the same place regularly, and you think they need help you can use StreetLink. The details you provide are sent to the local authority or outreach service for the area to help them find the individual and give them the support they need.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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