As Britain braces itself for the cold weather, most people are wearing extra layers and cranking up the heating. Sadly, for tens of thousands of young people in the UK, that isn’t an option. Instead, with nowhere to go, they often end up sleeping rough in the freezing cold, feeling unsafe and vulnerable, and this Christmas over 22,000 young people are at risk of homelessness.1
Here, Sovereign Health Care speaks to the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, Centrepoint, which has some practical tips on how to help young people get out of the cold, and more importantly, out of danger. These tips are easy-to-act-on options that could make a real, life-changing difference to young people sleeping rough this winter.
Call the Centrepoint Helpline
If you know a young person who might be at risk of homelessness, then call the Centrepoint Helpline for free on 0808 800 0661 or pass on the number to them. It’s available for any young person aged 16 to 25 and is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. You can also get in touch online: https://centrepoint.org.uk/helpline.
StreetLink allows members of the public to connect young people sleeping rough with local services and homeless charities that can support them. This is the simplest way to find young people out on the streets immediate support in the cold weather. This easy to use app is downloadable from Apple or Google, or you can call the 24-hour helpline on 0300 500 0914. Be as detailed as possible about their appearance and location so the team has the best chance of finding the individual who needs help.
If it’s safe, then stop and talk to them
Deciding whether to give money or food is always a personal choice. Often young people who sleep rough feel that no-one cares about them, but a small act of kindness such as a warm drink or a meal, can make a bit difference. Even if you have nothing else to give, a friendly face and acknowledgement will always be welcome.
Refer them to a day centre
Day centres offer practical help such as a hot meal and access to showers and laundry facilities. You can find your nearest day centre by using Homeless Link’s directory or calling the Centrepoint Helpline on 0808 800 0661. If you have some spare time, you might also be able to volunteer at a day shelter if they need an extra pair of hands.
Get in touch with your local council and ask about SWEP
SWEP stands for Severe Weather Emergency Protocol and provides emergency support for rough sleepers when the temperatures drop drastically. During SWEP, councils open extra beds in night shelters as well as other services. This is dependent on guidelines, but it’s worth checking with your council to see if SWEP is in operation during cold weather and how those sleeping rough can access it.
Want to provide more long-term support?
Centrepoint is urging people to donate this winter. Just £18 could give a young homeless person a warm, safe room, hot meal and support in rebuilding their life. Visit http://centrepoint.org.uk/safechristmas to donate.
Centrepoint CEO Seyi Obakin, comments: “Every night, thousands of young people with no place to call home are risking their lives trying to find a safe place to sleep. Whether it’s a stairwell, bus or a stranger’s bed, no young person should be forced to choose which of these places to sleep in, especially as temperatures start to plummet.
“We support thousands of homeless young people each year, but we know that tens of thousands more need help. That’s why we are urging the public to support young people at risk this winter, so that together we can help keep a young person out of danger.”
Sovereign Health Care is a proud supporter of Centrepoint through its Community Programme. To find out more about how Sovereign supports its local community, visit sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/about/community-programme
Photo credit: Pegasus Pics