How to help rough sleepers in the cold

Deaths of homeless people in England and Wales has risen dramatically since 2013. Credit: PA

The UK has been grappling with plummeting temperatures, snowfall and icy conditions.

Forced to sleep in temperatures as cold as -15.4C, rough sleepers are among the worst affected.

Here's what you can do to help:

  • Contact emergency services

If the individual is under the age of 18 or has a child the local authority has an obligation to help them.

The best thing is to contact the police or social services.

If they are in need of medical help, dial 999.

  • Alert the local authority

The severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) has been activated across many areas in England and Wales.

This means extra shelters and spaces have been opened up in certain regions to help keep people off the streets during the cold weather.

Local authorities can be alerted using the StreetLink website, app or calling 0300 500 0914.

According to StreetLink here are the most useful pieces of information to pass on when reporting a rough sleeper's location.

  • A specific location for the rough sleeping site. You can do this by using a map to pinpoint the exact location and then providing a written description of the location.

  • Details of the time that the rough sleeper has been seen at the location.

  • Any information about the rough sleeper that will help find them (gender, approximate age, what the person looks like, what they are wearing).

  • Help outside England and Wales

In Northern Ireland the House Executive offers information on how to help rough sleepers. Credit: House Executive

If you're in Scotland or Northern Ireland there are no centralised services to help rough sleepers.

The best place to find advice if you're in Scotland is on the Shelter Scotland website.

In Northern Ireland, the Housing Executive website offers information on what to do.

  • Stop and engage

According to charity The Bowery Mission, Credit: PA

Find time to stop and speak with rough sleepers.

According to charity The Bowery Mission, "homelessness brings a sense of loneliness that erodes the core of a person’s self-value."

They say simply acknowledging a person, either with a conversation or even just a smile, shows rough sleepers they are not alone and that people care about them.

"Homelessness puts an enormous strain on mental health with long hours of loneliness, isolation and sleep deprivation," says a spokesperson for The Big Issue.

They say: "The first way to help is simple one - speak up!

"A warm greeting, some simple small talk or even just asking a personal question can make all the difference."

  • Give a gift

Gifts such as blankets or warm clothing can go a long way. Credit: PA

Charity Crisis suggest gifts such as blankets or warm clothing, like hats, scarfs, socks or gloves or even just a cup of tea.

Another way of gifting homeless people is to work with a charity who do just that. Charity St Mungos offer a service in which people can donate items such as clean clothes in all sizes, unused toiletries, full, sealed packets of dry, non perishable food within their sell by date, new socks, new underwear, new towels and new bedding.

For homeless people a dog can often be their only companion. Credit: PAAn alternative to this Crack and Cider, who bill themselves as the "world’s first shop for the homeless", a store where customers can buy useful items for homeless people.

The shop has a list of the most essential items a homeless person might need. All you need to do is purchase an item and the team will distribute it to a homeless person in Bournemouth or London.