The shocking reality a person could be allowed to die on the streets of Britain were brought into bold view on February 14th. Amongst the morning commuters at the Westminster tube station in London, a homeless man was found lifeless in the underpass. Reports say that temperatures the previous night had reached freezing.
Amongst many others, Jeremy Corbyn left a card at the scene, stating, “This should never have happened.” In an area of London through which MPs walk daily to reach the underground entrance to Westminster, how has a homeless person been allowed to die?
It is not just London. According to Al Jezeera, there are over 4000 people sleeping rough in the UK. As we enter into the 7th consecutive year of rising homelessness, policy is becoming less supportive. In Windsor, there was even a proposed fine of £100 for any rough sleepers leaving their possessions outside.
Here in Liverpool, attitudes towards homelessness tend to be more tolerant. Even with support and investment from the council, there is still an estimated 80 to 100 people sleeping rough every night in Liverpool. I spoke to Lily Nathan, President of the Help the Homeless society at the University of Liverpool, to see what we as students can do to help.
Is giving money the best option?
“Some people argue that giving money is facilitating people living on the street and not seeking help. If people can survive on the street by getting the money that they do, would they be less likely to reach out for places that might be able to help? But on the other hand they are a human being who is there, asking for your help.”
“I’d say just chatting and engaging with them, like (they’re) not in this really weird situation and that they are part of society, if anything is the best thing to do.”
“Asking how’s their days going, asking if they want any food. But there is controversy about that as well. Are you facilitating an unsustainable lifestyle for them? Obviously it’s nice to help in whatever way you can, but do we have a responsability to help them in a more (sustainable) way?”
If you are feeling outraged that many MPs could walk past a person in need daily, it is time to get more actively involved! Lily filled me in on the work of Help the Homeless society.
“We drive to a warehouse every Monday evening. We sort donations there, which get given to local families and schools, for example if children need uniforms and can’t afford it.”
“We take all the old sandwiches from The Guild and Starbucks to The Whitechapel Centre, which is Liverpool’s leading homeless charity and that happens daily, so always looking for volunteers for that.”
“Whitechapel’s aim is to try and get people accommodated. During the day they have rough sleepers come in for 3 hot meals and they have access to the internet. They support people with their basic needs, offering showers and laundry as well.”
“Everyone I meet there is just so funny and really interesting. I meet the same people every week so build up friendships. It can be disheartening to see that they aren’t yet accommodated. But it’s nice to see the Whitechapel helping them every step of the way whilst they get there.”
“Even the fact that they are going to the Whitechapel centre shows that they want to get out of the situation that they are in, which links to the thing of if you give money, are you stopping them needing to go to the Whitechapel to get help?”
“We have a pink bin in The Guild in the shop which we use to collect sanitary products. We do a big session when we get everyone together and we put them in bags. We work with the Homeless Period, it’s another organisation in Liverpool. Period poverty is a big thing.”
The Whitechapel Centre is located close to campus, on Langsdale Street. It is extremely convenient for students to drop off donations or volunteer for a few hours a week. Food or sanitary items are always much appreciated.
Refugees and asylum seekers
The society’s efforts to help the homeless extends far beyond Liverpool.
“We send out containers to refugee camps. We are sending one out to Chios, a Greek island, and that’s what we are working towards at the moment.”
“Also we’ve got our mobile breakfast service, put on in different housing accommodations sites for asylum seekers, where the home office puts people while they are claiming for asylum. We do a mobile breakfast out the back of someone’s car. It’s a nice way again to interact and engage with people, make them feel part of society, rather than a person who is all alone and not fitting in.”
Raise the Roof!
“The best way to get involved is by becoming a member, we send out member emails every Sunday which list all the activities for the week. We have events most weeks as well, like Raise the Roof.”
Raise the roof has been organised by Help the Homeless Society and Ellipsis, and is geared up to be a great event. Absolutely all the money raised from ticket sales is going to two local charities, MRANG and MerseyAid.
“Wednesday 21st February, Studio 2 on Parr Street. 6 local bands will be playing. You can get tickets on the Guild website or on Skiddle for £5/6.”
“There will be a raffle, which you can buy tickets for, either on the night or in advance on the Guild website. There will be loads of prizes, like tickets to other events, a £60 meal voucher and tickets to see The Clockwork Orange at the Everyman Theatre!”
To buy tickets for Raise the Roof, follow these links. Hurray they are in high demand!
To volunteer with Help the Homeless Society, visit: