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Helping the homeless this Christmas

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! We’re counting down to Christmas (and a break from work/school/studies) and everything’s suddenly got a bit more magical. There’s mulled wine, festive pop ups and social events every night of the week, and we get to go home to our warm houses, snuggle the radiator and admire our Christmas decoration handiwork.

Sadly it’s not magical for everyone. For homeless people, Christmas is one of the worst times of the year. Sleeping rough when the temperature drops is hard enough, but add to that the danger that comes on the streets during party season (with frequent abuse from drunk passers-by), and it’s a seriously bleak situation. Plus – imagine waking up on Christmas Day with no family, friends or dinner to enjoy?

Crisis recently released stats from a YouGov poll, showing that 61% of the British population feel angry, upset or frustrated at the state of homelessness in the UK, but don’t know what they can do to help. And a huge seven in 10 people in the poll revealed they wouldn’t know what to do if they saw a homeless person.

Luckily you can make a difference for homeless people, especially during the festive season – and it’s not as hard as you think. Here are some ideas.

Give them a Christmas dinner

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For the small sum of £28.18, you can give one homeless person a proper Christmas day – thanks to Crisis. Essentially the money gets them a place at a local branch of Crisis, where they’ll have three hot meals (including a Christmas dinner), a shower, some clean clothes, health checks, a bed for the night and even expert help with mental health, and advice on housing and employment for the future.

If you want to go further than donating cash, you can also volunteer for a number of homeless charities at Christmas. Crisis, Shelter From The Storm, The Whitechapel Mission and Salvation Army are good places to start (in London).

Get them some help

Streetlink is a clever app that allows you to send an alert about someone you might be concerned about who’s sleeping rough (in England and Wales), and connect them with local help services. It’s really easy to use, but you’ll need to give details of the specific location you saw them, what times you’ve seen them, and any details about their appearance.

Feed their pet

It might sound like a trivial thing, but for a lot of rough sleepers their pet is their only companion and source of support on the streets. Giving them some pet food (as well as something for them) is a thoughtful way to help, and look after their pet’s wellbeing too.

Give them your unwanted clothes

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Got loads of clothes piled up in your wardrobe? Have a spring clean, and while you’re at it donate some to homeless people – in the colder months, your old jumpers, jackets, socks, hats and gloves could be really valuable to someone who’s sleeping rough with few possessions of their own.

The Salvation Army has clothing banks across the country where you can drop these off, or give them to a Shelter shop.

Hand out sanitary products

Many homeless women face a dreadful time each month, where they’re forced to go without sanitary products. This is not only uncomfortable, but can be extremely embarrassing and represents a further loss of dignity for some.

Donating sanitary products is a gift that’s more helpful than you’d think – even if it feels a bit weird. Head to The Homeless Period for more information on their campaign to connect women with sanitary products, and find out how to get involved too – or just buy something for the next homeless female you see.

Have a chat

Sleeping rough is an isolating experience, made worse by the amount of people that totally ignore the homeless people they walk past each day. Taking a few moments out of your day to introduce yourself and have a chat can make a real difference to someone, and gives their mental health a boost too. So why not?

Enter Live Rent Free

This year we decided to make our much-loved monthly Live Rent Free competition even more special. We’ve partnered with Crisis to support their “Everybody In” campaign, which aims to end homelessness within the next 10 years. So each month, we’ll match our winner’s prize amount and donate the same sum to the charity.

You don’t have to do anything, just keep entering! You can feel great that you might not only win a life-changing sum of money, but you’ll be helping homeless people across the UK too. Enter next month’s competition here.

Photo credit: Kari Shea, Tom Parsons, Howard Lake

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