Homelessness is a complex and serious issue in the UK.
According to The Homelessness Monitor: England 2022, it’s predicted that the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic risks a substantial rise in people sleeping on the streets or in short-term emergency and unsuitable accommodation.
Levels of rough sleeping are also predicted to rise, despite the Government’s target of ending this form of homelessness by 2024.
However, homelessness is a problem that can be overcome.
There are many ways that homelessness can be prevented through your support.
A multitude of charities, such as St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity, work with people who are at risk of homelessness or currently experiencing homelessness. These charities help amplify their voice and, together, find a solution.
In this guide, we’ll explore the various ways you can help people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness by supporting the work of these crucial charities.
Before we get started
If you’d like to learn more about the various ways we help people at risk of or experiencing homelessness, then join our newsletter for the latest updates.
Why help people experiencing homelessness?
Firstly, thank you for showing your support. You’re already here because the issue of homelessness is likely close to your heart.
People donate to a homeless charity or volunteer for various reasons.
Here we highlight some of the main ways your support can make a difference to people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness.
To give stability and hope
In 1975, in the run-up to Christmas, Sara was experiencing homelessness. She was also pregnant and had four children to care for.
“We were sent to a hostel in Peckham, an old work-house turned into a homeless hostel. It was all very scary. After three weeks, just a few days before Christmas, we were moved to an ex-fire station in Lewisham. It was better, we had two rooms, a toilet and a cooker in the entrance lobby.”
Her fifth child was born on 29th December at Lewisham hospital. However, just three weeks later, her partner and all her children went down with flu, but was told she had a place to go in New Cross.
“It was a condemned house with no hot water and a hole in the ceiling big enough for a bath to fall through. We had to move there, we were given no other option. But we got a grant from St Martin’s to buy a kettle, some bedding and a second-hand washing machine, which made all the difference. We coped, and gradually got on our feet.”
Sara eventually went to work for a children’s charity in Hackney, then on to university to a career in social work. She is now over 70 and has 12 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“It was people like you at St Martin’s who gave us dignity and hope. I never forget and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
To support people when they need it most
Dermot has been volunteering for shifts to support the St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity Christmas Appeal for many years. When he has signed up for a shift, we know it is going to be fun and packed with good conversation!
“I have been lucky in much of my life – my jobs and career, my health and security in income, my home and my share of luck. Not everything has come or gone the way I might have liked, but more good than bad certainly has.”
Dermot views volunteering to help people experiencing homelessness as a way of supporting people when they need it most.
“I have seen too much unfairness, bad luck and inequality in life and wonder why. Why not me for instance? Were I a Christian I would thank God; but I’m not and I don’t or can’t. So volunteering is me trying to do some good, but not consciously as such.”
To truly make a difference in the world
During the Covid-19 outbreak, Paul had been printing PPE for NHS professionals and other Frontline Workers, and wanted to donate the excess money that he is given to cover the printing costs to St Martin’s Charity.
“I made it primarily for care homes, but I have supplied doctors, food banks and Post Office workers, all of whom indicated they are happy to make a donation for charitable causes. I don’t make a charge for these items, but I often receive contributions towards the material costs which are in excess of the manufacturing costs. I decided that the surplus income would be sent to the Emergency Appeal Keep Our Doors Open from St Martin-in-the-Fields.”
Paul and his wife now live in rural Somerset. He continues to help NHS staff by making face visors in his office with four machines and has outsourced nose & mouth mask production to a small factory in Devon.
“I certainly feel that the need to support not only the people who are homeless but those who face physiological and psychological addictions or other issues is paramount. The loss of control of one’s life, for whatever reason, can be equated almost to the denial of the right of life.”
To provide fast relief for those experiencing or facing homelessness
Mr and Mrs Butterworth celebrated their Ruby wedding with a ceilidh, a social event with Scottish or Irish folk music and singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling.
They collected donations in lieu of gifts from friends for our Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF). The VRF provides emergency financial support to people in vulnerable situations to find – and keep – a safe place to live.
“My mother and sister have always supported St Martins. So, I guess the decision to support the charity just comes from my family story, really,” says Mrs Butterworth. “My sister, she was a teacher, and she even referred a couple of people that were going through a rough time to St Martin’s.”
For Mrs Butterworth, it is the fast relief homeless charities can provide that is so appealing.
“What appeals to me about the VRF is how quickly it can help someone. I’ve worked helping people before, with Citizens Advice. But it is always waiting for a decision that is a problem! How is it possible that it takes up to 5 weeks for the DWP to reach a decision? And the Vicar’s Relief Fund, I know you can just decide where the money goes in way less time!”
– Mrs Butterworth
To provide refuge
Bitenge, who works for the African Refugee Community, has been volunteering with St Martin’s Charity for many years. Moreover, and through his work, he has applied to the VRF many times, on behalf of the people he supports.
“The African Refugee Community provides psycho-social assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and people who are destitute. We assist them in different contexts during their relocation processes in the UK. The African Refugee Community has been receiving VRF grants to support our service users for many years, and I have seen the positive impact that this financial support has had and continues to have on the relocation, rehabilitation, safety and general well-being of the beneficiaries. They are empowered and feel part of the UK society.”
For Bitenge, a sense of connection to a charity that helps provide refuge for people who have found themselves in a difficult situation is very rewarding.
“I feel connected to the charity and grateful for the support that we receive from St Martin’s and feel the need of offering my time to also contribute in a voluntary capacity to the useful, compassionate work that you do to help all human beings to feel part of the UK Society. It’s a way to say thank you, a way to also help others who are facing hardship in different forms.”
How to help people experiencing homelessness in the UK
There are various ways to help people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness, all across the UK.
Our UK homeless charity provides a number of solutions to help people experiencing homelessness in the UK. Through our various funds, appeals, and partner network, you can make a huge difference to people’s lives.
Read on to find out how you can help people in London or in your local area.
Support people experiencing homelessness in London
The Homelessness Monitor: England 2022, predicts “an increase in core homelessness from 2021, assuming no significant amendment to existing housing, homelessness and social security policies.”
Under this scenario, overall core homelessness in 2024 is projected to be one-third higher than in 2019, with the largest rises anticipated in sofa surfing and rough sleeping, and especially steep rises predicted in London.
The impact of the pandemic on homelessness in London is profound. Read on to find out how you can change lives in the capital.
In the heart of London, you help to run The Connection at St Martin’s.
The Connection is a London homeless charity that provides vital support to hundreds of people as they recover from the experience of homelessness through its day centre and accommodation for people who are rough sleeping.
It connects them with skilled staff who understand the complexity of their situation and who listen, and then help.
Step by step, these workers provide tailored support that enables someone to regain their health, a home, and their independence.
Our stories: Lorraine
Lorraine was a smart teenager but had a troubled relationship with her family and went to live in a children’s home.
She struggled with life at the home and decided to run away to London. She soon found herself homeless sleeping in an alleyway in Soho. Drugs began to play a part in coping with the difficulties and dangers of a tough life rough sleeping.
“Basically, I was just living on the streets and using drugs every day. Kind of like a vicious circle, because you need your drugs so it stops you from wanting somewhere to live… It gets very cold. Very painfully cold, especially in winter.”
She tried to confront her substance misuse several times but struggled to maintain this under the weight of life on the streets.
Through her hard work and determination, she eventually managed to leave hard drugs behind and moved into a home with her partner.
But when the relationship became abusive, she needed to move quickly and turned to The Connection for support.
Within three weeks she had a place to live. A studio flat provided her with the security and stability she needed to live a happier life.
Lorraine is enjoying the home that she has built through the combination of her own hard work and support from The Connection.
“I love it. It’s small but it’s clean and it’s nicely decorated, you know it’s home. It’s fully furnished – I walked in there with nothing, and I had basically everything. If I hadn’t met Sinead that day, I wouldn’t be sitting here now. I wouldn’t be drug-free and I wouldn’t have anywhere to live. The Connection always supported me no matter where I was in my life.”
Lorraine now wants to use her own experiences of homelessness to help other people who find themselves needing support. She has already helped The Connection to set up a safe space for women to access services and is looking to return to education so she can support more people as a frontline worker.
In the heart of London, you help to run The Connection at St Martin’s. The Connection is a London homeless charity that provides vital support to hundreds of people as they recover from the experience of homelessness through its day centre and accommodation for people who are rough sleeping.
We fund organisations to deliver services to support people experiencing homelessness. We currently fund six projects, based across the four nations of the UK.
The projects each focus on supporting people to secure – and keep – a safe place to live. This includes providing access to healthcare, legal advice and mental health support to help people move on from homelessness.
Here’s more information about the organisations we support:
Caring in Bristol
Caring in Bristol delivers projects around homelessness that engage a community of volunteers, bringing people together to make change.
Like St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity, Caring in Bristol strives to create a society where everyone has a home and works hard to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
With your help, they will be able to support more young people experiencing homelessness in Bristol, through their ambitious “Project Z”.
Akt is a UK homeless charity in the North-West of England that supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 who are facing or experiencing homelessness or are living in a hostile environment.
Not only do they support individuals into safe homes, but the charity also ensures young people have access to employment, education or training in a welcoming and open environment that celebrates LGBTQ+ identities.
Thanks to your support, our funding will help their work in Manchester and the North-West of England with the Trans Pathway Project. This helps provide young people who identify as trans the support they need to access accommodation, allowing them to feel safe and end their homelessness.
A leading UK homeless charity specialising in healthcare, Pathway works with partners to create improved models of care for people experiencing homelessness.
Their purpose is to improve the health and wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness by developing and sharing the best models of care, increasing specialist skills of workers in healthcare, influencing policy and reducing stigma in healthcare against people experiencing multiple exclusion.
Thanks to your support, they will be able to provide the legal advice needed in securing more stable outcomes for our patients and help improve even more lives across the UK.
A leading independent Welsh children’s charity working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children, young people, and families in Wales.
TGP Cymru helps individuals access appropriate services in health, education, and social care – TGP Cymru works tirelessly to ensure everyone has a voice to have a say in their future.
With your support, they will continue to support the young people across North Wales that do not have a safe place to call home.
Legal Services Agency (LSA)
A Scottish law centre and charity committed to defending legal rights and using the law to effect social change.
Believing that everyone is entitled to specialist legal advice when they need it, LSA works to prevent homelessness alongside other valuable services.
Thanks to your generous donations, our funding will help their services focus on early intervention, and preventing homelessness for people who have been in contact with the criminal justice system.
A leading social justice charity across the island of Ireland that speaks up for and supports more than 21,000 children, young people, individuals, and families each year to overcome challenges, empower positive change and support family unity.
Your support will help fund their work offering counselling to vulnerable people, who often are unable to access many mainstream services due to having been engaged within the criminal justice system.
Through our Frontline Network, you ensure that the best quality support is always on offer.
You help specialist workers and organisations across the UK to access new funding, share expertise and find new and innovative ways of providing meaningful support for anyone experiencing homelessness.
You’ll help these dedicated workers to
- Access an ‘Ideas Fund’ so they can improve the situation for people experiencing homelessness, and turn a good idea for support into reality. This funding ranges from £200 to £10,000, for ideas big and small, and workers can use it to develop creative solutions to the problems their beneficiaries face.
- Share the brightest ideas, best practice and experience, through professional networks and events across the UK.
- Amplify their voice, so their expertise is considered at a national level and in all policy decisions about housing and homelessness.
Our Frontline Network in Blackpool
Streetlife Trust run the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Frontline Network, which offers support to frontline workers who work with people experiencing homelessness in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre.
The Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Frontline Network facilitates quarterly events, which provide a regular opportunity to bring together frontline workers to network, share expertise, and experience, and link to decision-makers.
Our Frontline Network in Brighton
Justlife run the Brighton and Hove Frontline Network, which offers support to frontline workers who work with people experiencing homelessness in Brighton and Hove.
The Brighton and Hove Frontline Network facilitates quarterly events, which provide a regular opportunity to bring together frontline workers in the Brighton and Hove area to network, share expertise, and experience, and link to decision-makers.
Our Frontline Network in Coventry
Coventry Citizens Advice run the Coventry Frontline Network, which offers support to frontline workers who work with people experiencing homelessness in Coventry and beyond.
The Coventry Frontline Network facilitates quarterly events, which provide a regular opportunity to bring together frontline workers in the Coventry area to network, share expertise, and experience, and link to decision-makers.
Our Frontline Network in Leicester
The Frontline Network has been running a local network for frontline staff and volunteers in Leicester. The local network ran meetings and training on areas that frontline staff have said would be beneficial to them in their roles.
Previous events have looked at various themes including, ‘Accessing Mental Health Support for Service Users’ and ‘Using a Personal, Transitional Service’. We are currently reviewing the format of this local network to ensure we can offer the most opportunities to the most frontline workers. This network is run by us directly as opposed to a partner.
Our Frontline Network in North Yorkshire
Basis Yorkshire, Together Women and Leeds Women’s Aid are facilitating the Leeds Women’s Homelessness and Housing Frontline Network. This is a thematic network supporting women experiencing homelessness.
With this funding, the Leeds Women’s Homelessness and Housing Frontline Network will build on its current network of Frontline Practitioners supporting women who require intensive support in Leeds.
This is a much-needed Forum given the lack of gendered focus and initiatives on homelessness and will include increased attention on hidden homelessness, Domestic and Sexual Violence and other traumatic experiences more often experienced by women.
In addition to homelessness charities, it will ensure specialist agencies such as those supporting sex workers, migrant women (particularly those with no recourse to public funds), harm reduction agencies, and criminal justice, are invited to contribute, given the strong link between these issues and homelessness.
Our Frontline Network in South Yorkshire
In September 2021, we were delighted to announce a new partnership with Depaul who will take on facilitating our South Yorkshire Frontline Network.
The network will continue to bring together frontline staff working in Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley; to network, share experience and link their voices to decision-makers.
Event themes will be informed by members of the South Yorkshire Frontline Network and each event will have a balance of facilitation and participation, with time for speakers and training, followed by time for networking.
Through our Frontline Network, you ensure that the best quality support is always on offer. You help specialist workers and organisations across the UK to access new funding, share expertise and find new and innovative ways of providing meaningful support for anyone experiencing homelessness.
Our Frontline Network in Wales
Cymorth Cymru run the Wales Frontline Network, which offers support to frontline workers who work with people experiencing homelessness across Wales.
The Wales Frontline Network will facilitate quarterly events, which provide a regular opportunity to bring together frontline workers throughout Wales to network, share expertise and experience, and link to decision-makers.
Cymorth Cymru is the representative body for providers of homelessness, housing and support services in Wales.
Our Frontline Network in Scotland
Cyrenians run the Scottish Frontline Network, which offers support to frontline workers who work with people experiencing homelessness across Scotland.
The Scottish Frontline Network facilitates quarterly events, which provide a regular opportunity to bring together frontline workers in Scotland to network, share expertise, and experience, and link to decision-makers.
As part of the Scottish Frontline Network, we fund a project called All in for Change, an inclusive programme using a collaborative effort to end homelessness in Scotland. All in for Change believe that ”Scotland will only develop and deliver the best policies to end homelessness when people with personal and professional experience are involved.”
It’s driven by a Change Team of people from across Scotland – experts in what homelessness looks like on the ground, for those most affected by it.
The team, made up of Change Leads, bring together diverse knowledge from people with recent experience of homelessness and those working in a frontline role.
The programme is led by three organisations: Cyrenians, Homeless Network Scotland and Scottish Community Development Centre. Each brings different expertise to help deliver the work, but the programme is underpinned by the principle of co-production.
Our Frontline Network in Northern Ireland
Homeless Connect facilitates our first Frontline Network in Northern Ireland.
This will offer a regional network, that will be led by frontline workers and designed around their needs. Homeless Connect will carry out an initial consultation which will be used to inform their Network events for the first year.
Ongoing consultations will also ensure that the network will continue to meet the needs of frontline workers. Since 1983 Homeless Connect has been tackling homelessness by acting as an umbrella body for organisations working with people who find themselves homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless. We support the sector by helping to shape government policy, providing quality training and taking on the preventable causes of homelessness.
With the Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF), you provide emergency financial support so that people in vulnerable situations can find – and keep – a safe place to live.
These small grants can prevent someone from losing their home or help them to find a new one. And they can transform a person’s circumstances within a matter of days.
Our stories: Jason and Louise
Jason was renting a house with Louise, but they struggled with stairs and had to move.
Louise had lived with a disability since childhood, and a serious motorbike accident had left Jason with chronic pain and mobility issues.
They moved in with Jason’s mum, but after 12 months their relationship deteriorated and she asked them to leave. On short notice, they moved out and had nowhere to go.
“We packed what we could in bags in the car – the seats all fold down. I just thought to myself ‘what are we going to do? Are we going to have to live in the car for the rest of our lives?’”
Jason knew a support worker called Lynne from a local veterans charity, The FirstLight Trust. Lynne put in an application to the VRF for the grant that secured their new home.
“Lynne said we’ve got the Vicar’s Relief Fund to pay the first month rent for you. It was great, I thought ‘Wow’, it was so uplifting. All that weight on you, you feel all that weight just lift. It’s amazing, it really, really is. It was only two or three days and we had the keys. Louise said ‘I’m going to clean the kitchen now’ and she came back out and goes ‘look at my cloth’ and it was still clean.”
With the VRF grant covering the first month’s rent, Jason and Louise have been able to use their own money to purchase essentials and turn the bungalow into a home.
Ways you can help people experiencing homelessness at Christmas
However, the devastating impacts of the pandemic have added huge additional pressure to support services, putting more people at risk of losing their homes and jobs.
Many people now find themselves experiencing homelessness and without the vital support they need for their physical and mental health.
If you’d like to help people experiencing homelessness at Christmas, St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity offers a number of solutions, spearheaded by our Christmas Appeal.
Find out how you can give stability and home this Christmas.
The BBC Radio 4 Christmas Appeal with St Martin-in-the-Fields
In 2021, the BBC Radio 4 Christmas Appeal with St Martin-in-the-Fields aired on Sunday 5th December.
For more than 95 years, St Martin’s Charity has supported people to take the next step towards a safe place to live and a more secure future.
Our 2022 BBC Radio 4 Christmas Appeal will ai on Sunday 4th December, highlighting the ongoing challenges putting even more people at risk of homelessness.
This Christmas, we’re asking our supporters to help more people get the grant, the careers advice or the health support they need to take their own life-changing next step to a safer, more stable future.
As a result, the support offered by St Martin’s Charity is more vital than ever.
Across the UK, our Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF) grants provide quick emergency solutions so that people at risk of homelessness can put down a deposit on a home or prevent eviction.
In London, The Connection at St Martin’s offers essential support for people experiencing street homelessness, as well as long-term advice and welfare services for support with careers, finances, health and wellbeing.
And our Frontline Fund helps organisations to deliver services to support people experiencing homelessness at Christmas.
Our stories: Austin
Austin became homeless following a motorcycle accident that left him with serious injuries.
He struggled with depression and began drinking, which eventually led him to lose his job and then his home.
After sleeping rough in a churchyard, he heard about a support organisation called St Petrocs, which helped him get back on his feet.
Austin quit drinking as soon as he arrived, but because of a misunderstanding at his previous home, he was suddenly faced with a historic bill for unpaid Council Tax which threatened to put him in jail.
That’s where the VRF, and you, stepped in, providing the funds for Austin to get an ID and clear his debt.
Following a Christmas spent in lockdown, he has now been offered a home of his own. A new-build flat in the local area represents a significant milestone in what has been two years of very hard work.
With a stable place to recover, he used his ID to become a Homeless Health Advocate and began to take his next steps.
“Life’s looking up really, might say I’ve got light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been offered a new build flat … I won’t get too excited till I’ve had a viewing and know the keys are there waiting. It’ll be like freedom back, really.”
Using his one experience, Austin now supports people experiencing homelessness, helping them attend hospital appointments and get help.
“The Vicar’s Relief Fund – it didn’t just stop with me, it’s now helping the people that I’m helping. It’s not just a one-off payment to help one person, there’s a knock-on effect and you don’t know how many people you are going to help. People can get out and do it with that little bit of backing. You get a little help somewhere, it could lead to bigger things in the future. Look at the difference of what I’m doing now.”
How you can help support our Christmas Appeal
If you would like to be a regular supporter of our Christmas appeal, you may want to consider setting up a Direct Debit.
You can also download our Direct Debit Form, complete it and return to FREEPOST ST MARTINS CHRISTMAS APPEAL.
How to maximise the impact of your homeless charity donations
Maximising the impact of your homeless charity donations starts with choosing the right charity – one that is highly knowledgeable about the sector.
At St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity, we collaborate with the people on the frontline who know exactly who needs funding, as well as areas that need extra focus.
To further maximise the impact of your donations, choose a charity that can tackle the issue of homelessness from all angles.
Here are some things to consider.
Our Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF) provides fast relief for people in crisis moments.
For example, by donating to the VRF you can help someone out of impending eviction.
Proving fast relief to people in crisis moments is essential. However, to truly tackle the issue of homelessness requires long-term support.
At St Martin’s, we fund organisations that provide a wide range of long-term support for people.
From substance misuse support and mental health to leaving prisons and immigration advice – these organisations ensure people experiencing challenges get the support they need for a brighter future.
Choose a charity that ensures funds are distributed effectively.
At St Martin’s, 80% of income (80p of a pound) goes straight to our programmes.
We spend 11% on fundraising and comms to highlight the issues of homelessness and just 9% on admin, which includes salaries and rent.
This ensures the large majority of your funding is distributed to the organisations tackling homelessness, and the individuals facing or experiencing homelessness, who really need it.
Investing in Emerging, Promising and Evidence-Based Practise
We are a homelessness charity helping people experiencing homelessness both directly and indirectly. What we need, to make a real difference, is investment in innovative approaches that target root causes of homelessness. We have divided these into three categories: emerging, promising and evidence-based practice.
We are raising £5,450,000 over the next four years for this exciting programme. Our target for year one is £550,000, starting with investing in mental health services for people facing homelessness. We would be delighted to discuss this programme further. Please contact our Fundraising Development Manager Faye at [email protected] for more information, or read more about this here.
Across the UK, our Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF) grants provide quick emergency solutions so that people at risk of homelessness can put down a deposit on a home or prevent eviction.
How you can help today
The work you help us do is essential.
While the St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity team diligently work with people who are sleeping rough on the streets or who are at risk of losing their home to help them find – and keep – a safe place to live, it’s your continued support that really makes a difference to people’s lives.
If you’d like to support us and the work we do with our partners, you can donate to our homeless charity online, via a regular or single homeless charity gift.
St Martin’s Charity wouldn’t exist without your generous support. We’d like to thank you for your continued support in making the world a happier, safer and more stable place for the people we work with.