Christmas has passed, the temperatures have dropped, and many of us will have woken up to a blanket of snow across Greater Manchester this week.
But as we continue to head into some of the coldest months of the year, an increasing number of people will sadly be without a roof over their heads or a secure place of shelter this winter, with the latest statistics by anti-poverty and community enhancement initiative Greater Manchester Together indicating there are currently upwards of 5,564 homeless people across the region.
Around 1,804 of those people are thought to just be in Manchester city centre alone.
Those who find themselves without a permanent or fixed abode will often face a series of complications on a daily basis, but the winter is known to bring with it an additional set of challenges, which is why many of us will look to see how we can lend a hand at this time of year.
CentrePoint, Shelter, and Barnabus Manchester are among the national and Greater Manchester-based homelessness charities that not only continue to provide essential services to those who need them most, but also provide information and advice to those interested in helping out where possible.
Here’s six ways you can help homeless people in Greater Manchester this winter.
1. Ask if there’s anything they need
Should you feel concerned about the welfare of someone during such adverse temperatures / weather conditions, taking a moment to stop and ask if there is anything you can provide for them could be a life-saving action.
This could include food, drink, thermals, bedding, a travelcard, Vaseline, a reusable water bottle, and more.
Whilst it’s true that long-term help for homeless people makes the biggest difference, having a conversation over a cup of tea can also be really important.
2. Refer them to StreetLink
StreetLink allows members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services and homeless charities that can support them, and it’s the easiest way to find immediate support for people out on the streets in cold weather.
You can download the StreetLink app from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store, or you can also call the 24-hour helpline on 0300 500 0914 / visit the website here.
When you send an alert, you should include:
- A specific location where the person is sleeping.
- The time you saw the person at this location.
- Any information about the person that will help outreach workers find them (for example – gender, age, what the person looks like, what they’re wearing)
If you can, it’s probably best to let the person know you’re referring them as they may not want their details shared with other agencies, but you can also ask them if they’re happy to pass on their mobile number so it’s easier for outreach workers to contact them.
3. Ask your local council about SWEP
SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) provides emergency support for rough sleepers when the temperatures drop drastically.
During SWEP, councils will usually 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 in your local area, and how those sleeping rough can access it.
You can find contact details for your local council here.
4. Refer them to day centres and night shelters
Day centres offer those sleeping rough practical help by providing services such as a hot meal and access to showers and laundry facilities, and you can find your nearest day centre by using Homeless Link’s directory, or calling the CentrePoint Helpline on 0808 800 0661.
If you are keen to help further, you may also be able to enquire about volunteer opportunities at day shelters if they are in need of an extra pair of hands.
Night shelters on the other hand offer a free and basic ‘shared space’ to stay for anyone who would otherwise be on the streets – with many providing an evening meal or breakfast at no cost / for a small charge – and often requires rough sleepers to arrive by a set time in the evening and leave in the morning, however due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many night shelter facilities were forced to close.
Local councils can now decide if night shelters should reopen in their local area – and will likely make special arrangements if the weather is cold – but some may not reopen if there are safer options available.
You can contact your local council here.
5. Call homelessness helplines
The CentrePoint helpline is there help anyone in England aged 16-25 who is homeless or at risk of being so, and operators will listen, advise and connect homeless young people to the right services.
You can call for free on 0808 800 0661 (Monday to Friday between 9am – 5pm).
Shelter offers free confidential expert advice via its website, Housing Aid Centres, helpline and email services, and you can call the helpline on 0808 800 4444.
You can contact your local Salvation Army, or call 0207367 4500.
The Customer Service Centre and Homelessness Reception at Manchester City Council are currently closed to walk-ins due to coronavirus (COVID-19), but you can call 0161 234 4692 between 9am – 4.30pm on Monday to Friday for help and support.
For help when the office is closed, you can phone 0161 234 5001.
You can call the Manchester Homeless Advice and Assessment Service on 0161 234 4692.
6. Call the emergency services
Only in the instance that someone sleeping rough appears to be unwell or in immediate danger should you call the emergency services on 999.
Keen to help out in an even more unique way as we head into 2021?
2021 will be Barnabus’ 30th year serving the people of Manchester to “provide hope and support to those without a home or rough sleeping on our streets” and so to mark its anniversary, the charity has launched a very special calendar celebrating the people and city of Manchester.
It features original photographs of Manchester taken by winners – both novices and professionals of all ages – of the charity’s photography competition.
At just £10 each, not only is each calendar purchase worth every penny, but 100% of the proceeds of the sale will support Barnabus Manchester’s work enabling and empowering people caught up in the revolving door of homelessness, so they can move off the streets and into independent living and a home.
You can get your ‘Manchester is Ours’ Barnabus 2021 Charity Calendar here.