This year, up and down the UK, homeless people have been dying. With the Met Office issuing severe weather warnings on Monday 26 February for extremely low temperatures, biting winds and snow, the unfortunate truth is that even more people will probably die on our streets in the next seven days.
Homeless people and rough sleepers need your support, and one organisation in particular is going to be very busy this week.
Death, after death, after death
At least four homeless people have died in London so far this year; most recently, a man perished near the Houses of Parliament. Across the UK, another man died on 23 February in Edinburgh. On the same day, a man died in Essex. Earlier in February, a man died in Cardiff. And at the end of January, a man died in Dudley, West Midlands.
Homelessness does not discriminate by location. People are dying up and down the UK. But what does discriminate is the government, which currently does not keep records of the number of homeless people and rough sleepers who die on our streets [pdf, p17].
It may be little wonder that the government doesn’t want an official record of the number of deaths. Because under successive Conservative-led governments, homelessness and rough sleeping have spiralled out of control. For example, the number of rough sleepers rose by 169% between 2010 and 2017.
So if the government is failing to act, then it’s left to the public to help. And there are numerous ways you can get involved.
Support is needed
Grassroots homelessness organisation Streets Kitchen operates across London. It works with Refugee Community Kitchen and StreetVetUK. Currently it has:
- A ‘Solidarity Centre’ open every day between 11am and 2pm for brunch club (Tuesdays and Thursdays are women only). This is at 48 Seven Sisters Road, Islington N7 6AA.
- Outreaches every Wednesday, Friday, Sunday at 7:30pm near Camden Town tube station. Hot food, bedding, clothes and other essentials are available.
- The ‘Sunday Project’, 184 Royal College Street, Camden NW1 9NN. Open from 2pm to 5pm it serves a ‘proper’ Sunday dinner.
- Outreaches in Hackney: Thursday at 8pm, and Saturday at 7pm outside Hackney Central Library, 25-27 Hackney Grove, London E8 3NR.
- Sunday outreaches at 6pm outside Bethnal Green tube station, Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 0ET.
Outside of London, you can use the Homeless Link directory to search for organisations that need support near you. You can also do a search of Facebook or Twitter.
Homeless people: don’t ignore them. Act. Now.
But Streets Kitchen thinks it’s often better for people to actually get out on the streets themselves and find out what support homeless people need.
It would take a couple of hours of your time. For example, if there’s not something in your area, get in touch with an existing organisation for advice about how to set one up in your area. Or go and actually speak to homeless people and rough sleepers and see if there’s anything specific you can support them with.
And if you really want to make your feelings known on the current homelessness crisis, join Streets Kitchen and others in a rally from 3pm to 6pm outside Downing Street on Saturday 3 March. It’s called “No more deaths on our streets”, and the organisers are asking people to bring essential items like clothes and sleeping bags, which Streets Kitchen will then distribute across London. Also bring your practical ideas on how we can stop people dying on the streets. Bring your voices, too – and let the government know how you feel.
One death on our streets is too many. But 2018 looks set to be a terrible year for homeless people and rough sleepers. They need your support. And they need it urgently.
– Support Streets Kitchen, join its rally on Saturday and also support Refugee Community Kitchen and StreetVetUK.
Featured image via Alvin Decena/Pexels