2021 has been a tough year for homeless people. The pandemic has hit the most vulnerable in society the hardest, and this along with rising debt and increased pressure on housing has led to more people than ever being at risk of homelessness in the UK. Government statistics show that 180,000 households have become homeless since the start of the pandemic. Now, with the colder months upon us, things are only going to become tougher.
Here at CENS, we are lucky to be able to provide a COVID-friendly space for people who have found themselves homeless in Colchester, with single occupancy ensuite bedrooms, large communal areas, an outdoor space and strict guidelines in place to ensure everyone’s safety. But how can you contribute to your community and help those most at risk?
Here are 5 small ways you can make a big difference:
- 12 days of Christmas
Have a 12-day countdown to Christmas and donate items to a homeless charity. You could share a donation box with friends and family and put something in it each day leading up to Christmas – essential store cupboard items, toiletries, warm clothing, treats. In the new year, you can drop the box off at your chosen charity and give what is usually a gloomy old month, a bit of a sparkle.
- Donate money
You may prefer giving money directly to somebody rough sleeping, and that is your choice, but there are also many local homeless charities who could benefit greatly from a cash donation, and as a smaller organisation, your donation will have a direct impact on a homeless person within your community.
- Donate vouchers
Instead of donating cash, you could give away gift vouchers or store vouchers. We all get those gift vouchers that sit in our wallets until we realise they are out of date, so why not use them to do some good? Alternatively, you could donate food vouchers – we were recently given some Greggs vouchers by a kind member of the public, and they certainly delivered more than just sausage rolls – they delivered a great deal of happiness to our residents!
We all make New Year resolutions, so why not raise money at the same time? Dry January, 5k challenge, staying away from chocolate, taking up cycling. Get together with friends, choose a challenge and go for it. Fundraising is not only a great way to give something back to your community, but it can be extremely rewarding too. For hints, tips and ideas on fundraising, see our Fundraising Guide.
- Just say hello
If you do see somebody sleeping rough, just acknowledging them can be a huge help. Stop, have a conversation, say hello, or just smile – all will make a big difference. Don’t just ignore a homeless person, even if seeing them makes you feel awkward. Spare a thought for how lonely and cold they are feeling – a bit of human contact and a little kindness can have a huge impact. If you are worried about somebody who is homeless you can call 999 or call Streetlink on 0300 500 09914.