Which charities are fighting homelessness in the UK?
The big charities working with homeless people and campaigning to end homelessness in Britain
by: Adrian Lobb, Liam Geraghty and Anita Bhadani
13 Dec 2022
Across the UK, there are a large number of charities working at a local and national level to fight homelessness and help people experiencing homelessness. These charities provide help and advice for people who are rough sleeping, in temporary, insecure or unsuitable accommodation or at risk of becoming homeless.
The vital outreach work that many charities do is often the first contact that people living with homelessness have with support services. Research from homelessness charity Crisis led by Heriot-Watt University in December 2022 shows that over 300,000 people and families across Britain could be forced into homelessness next year if there is no change to current UK government policy. This estimate is up from 227,000 in 2020 – an increase of 32 per cent.
Matt Downie, Chief Executive of Crisis, said we are headed towards a “catastrophic situation”, adding: “Through our services we see the immense pressure people are under as rocketing costs for essentials like food and heating eat away at their limited budgets.
“Though government action to raise benefits, and the benefit cap, in line with inflation will put more money in people’s pockets, this will not help them cover their rent.
“The failure to invest in housing benefit during a recession and painful cost of living crisis is frankly irresponsible and must be reversed. We know that homelessness is solvable, and we know what policy changes are required to bring these numbers down – what’s needed is the political will to drive this agenda forward.”
Just as each person who becomes homeless will have different needs, so each charity within the homelessness sector offers specific and specialist services.
Support offered by these charities includes help and advice for people facing homelessness; access to emergency or temporary accommodation; housing and legal advice; assistance getting into education, employment or training; help setting up bank accounts and accessing benefits and support; a safe space; help with drug and alcohol dependency; advocacy and fighting for political solutions to rising levels of homelessness.
Here’s a round-up of the national homelessness charities in the UK.
Crisis was founded in 1967 and offers direct help to people facing homelessness. The charity also campaigns to find solutions to problems around homelessness in the UK.
The charity offers education, employment, housing and well-being services as well as one-to-one support, advice and courses for homeless people in 12 areas across England, Scotland and Wales., Crisis commissions and conducts research to help document UK homelessness via its knowledge hub and find solutions to critical issues around housing and homelessness.
Crisis played a significant role in the Covid-19 response to protecting rough sleepers. Chief executive Jon Sparkes led Scotland’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group which reconvened during the crisis to recommend measures for the Scottish Government to adopt in the wake of Covid-19.
In Westminster, Crisis is also at the crux of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness, which earlier this year launched an inquiry into the Westminster Government’s progress towards its manifesto commitment to “end the blight of rough sleeping by the end of the next parliament” in England by 2024.
Homelessness charity Shelter was founded in 1966, coincidentally, just weeks after the first airing of Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home on BBC television highlighted issues around homelessness.
Shelter offers advice, information, representation and advocacy to people who are homeless, in unsuitable or insecure housing, or at risk of becoming homeless via an online support network as well as advice and support services.
Alongside this work, Shelter campaigns on issues in the housing and homelessness sectors – including their commission that assessed how many social homes are needed to tackle the housing crisis.
This winter, it is once again teaming up with football clubs and fans for its #NoHomeKit campaign, where teams playing at home on Boxing Day swap their home colours for an away or third kit to raise money for its vital work helping those with no safe place to call home.
The Big Issue Foundation
The Big Issue Foundation was founded in 1995 to offer outreach work to vendors. Its work includes helping vendors get to housing meetings or job interviews, open bank accounts or get passports, access health care, reconnect with estranged family members or friends, acquire skills to get back into employment, training and education, make the move from the street to hostel, hostel to temporary accommodation or on to something more permanent – before helping out with the essentials to set up home.
It is tough work, helping people who are often excluded from mainstream society and disadvantaged in multiple ways. But The Big Issue Foundation ensures that, as well as the income they receive from selling The Big Issue, our vendors receive the support they need to move forward in their lives – including helping to set up vendors with ID and bank accounts so they can now take cashless payments and are part of the modern digital economy. It has big ambitions going into 2023, with a range of priorities to deliver on. From fighting fuel poverty through upscaling energy advice nationally, to supporting Roma and Eastern European communities, closing the digital gap, and accelerating access to mental health services in the wake of Covid-19 and the ongoing cost of living crisis.
Centrepoint offers homeless young people accommodation, physical and mental health support, and skills and advice to help them back into education, employment and training.
The charity supports more than 14,000 young people aged 16-25 in London, Manchester, Yorkshire and the North East of England. Young people are able to stay with Centrepoint for up to two years with 88 per cent then going on to move into their own homes, reconnect with their families, get their first jobs or go to university. The charity aims to end youth homelessness by 2037. Centrepoint also provides for young people across England while running a homelessness prevention service in Manchester and a national helpline.
Depaul UK is part of Depaul International, a global network whose work ranges from providing safe shelter, accommodation, food and health services to helping people affected by homelessness receive education, employment and the social services they need.
Through its work in some of the UK’s most disadvantaged communities, Depaul aims to prevent homelessness and provide support to vulnerable young people, offering emergency accommodation and longer-term housing, as well as outreach services to help young people in crisis.
Depaul UK also co-ordinates the national Nightstop UK service, which aims to place young people facing rough sleeping, sofa surfing or unsuitable accommodation with approved and vetted volunteers – ensuring they have a secure and safe room for the night.
St Mungo’s is a homelessness charity providing outreach, support and shelter for homeless people. The charity, which was established in 1969, has services across the south of England, working to help people rebuild lives, but also to improve understanding of homelessness, and empathy towards people who are homeless. St Mungo’s played a pivotal role in the Covid-19 response to protect rough sleepers. In the first year of the Everyone In scheme, the charity managed 30 hotels and protected 4,000 people. The charity also coordinates the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), a multi-agency database that provides a comprehensive count of the number of rough sleepers coming into contact with outreach workers in London.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army runs hostels, drop-in centres and does frontline work with rough sleepers, as well as offering a range of other services across the UK. This can include outreach services, night shelters, addiction services, and the charity is also among the first to offer some Housing First projects and case workers in a bid to end the cycle of homelessness and poverty for some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
The Salvation Army’s 80 ‘Lifehouses’ are intended to offer support that goes beyond a place to stay, also tackling issues with housing, employment, debt problems, training, spirituality, loneliness, addiction or mental health to get people off the street in the long-term.
London charity Glass Door runs the UK’s largest network of open-access shelters for people who are experiencing homelessness.
During 2021 and 2022, the charity provided support to 1,465 people. Last winter, at least 82 of those supported were refugees or asylum seekers, at least 22 were fleeing domestic violence, and 10 were victims of modern slavery.
As well as a place to stay out of the cold, Glass Door offers access to vital essentials like food through a network of churches and community centres as well as the possibility to connect to services that will help people to leave homelessness behind for good.
Housing Justice has been supporting grassroots faith and community night shelters for over 60 years.
The charity helps churches and other faith groups mobilise to tackle homelessness and housing need, building on a strong network of churches to provide shelter and a referral network that helps people access wider support for homelessness.
During the pandemic, Housing Justice played a key role in distributing government funds to other charities. It was tasked with handling a £3m fund to help faith, community and voluntary sector organisations switch to provide individual rooms and self-contained accommodation for people experiencing homelessness.
While homelessness can affect almost anyone, some marginalised groups in society are at greater risk of homelessness.
That is why AKT (or the Albert Kennedy Trust as it was previously known) stands up for LGBTQ+ youngsters. According to the charity, as many as a quarter of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ+. This puts them at greater risk of discrimination, family breakdown and even violence.
AKT primarily helps young people aged between 16 and 25 by helping them to stay safe in a crisis, finding emergency accommodation or accessing specialist support to meet their needs.
As well as stepping in when someone is experiencing homelessness, AKT helps them work on getting out of homelessness too by developing skills that allow them to achieve their life goals.
Single Homeless Project
Single Homeless Project (SHP) is a pan-London charity working across all 32 London boroughs helping people into hostels and support housing through to helping people into education, training, and employment.
The charity, which supports over 10,000 people each year, has previously helped people like former Big Issue vendor Patrick Lawson on his journey being trapped in a cycle of homelessness and time in prison to working as a bus driver and beyond. The charity runs many community support schemes to prevent homelessness as well as a Housing First project for women known as Project Kali. There are even chances for people to grow their skills through SHP’s Opportunities Programme which pairs people experiencing homelessness with professional musicians, sports and art groups.
Accumulate focuses on giving people who have experienced homelessness the chance to develop their art skills with the view to build careers or even just to enjoy the therapeutic and cathartic artistic process.
The charity created the first-ever graphic novel about homelessness in 2020. The Book of Homelessness was put together and illustrated entirely by people who have been without a home themselves. Recently, it set up a new initiative, Accumulate scholarships, to close education barriers and open up learning opportunities. Through this scheme, participants study for an Access to HE certificate in art and design courses through financial support. So far Accumulate has funded 24 people with experience of homelessness to study on Access courses.
Emmaus supports people on their way out of homelessness, providing meaningful work and housing in a community setting. Through social enterprises, Emmaus raises funds for food, accommodation and a small living allowance for its ‘companions’. The work includes refurbishing and selling donated furniture and household goods in their shops and showrooms, running cafes, house clearance businesses and gardening projects. Their research shows that 79 per cent of companions who have lived at Emmaus for a few months consider the chance to work the most beneficial part of their experience.
Homeless Link works with other charities and organisations within the homelessness sector to try to improve services, while also working with local and national government to improve policies. The charity also campaigns for policy change that will contribute to ending homelessness and innovate and develop tools that help other organisations, such as Streetlink.
Streetlink connects rough sleepers to homelessness services. The charity runs a website, app and phone line enabling concerned members of the public to report rough sleepers in England and Wales – the information is then passed on to the local authority outreach teams, who will attempt to contact the individual and connect them with vital services.
NACCOM – the No Accommodation Network – is a network of over 140 frontline organisations and charities across the UK who are working together to end destitution amongst people seeking asylum, refugees and other migrants who aren’t able to access to public funds because of their immigration status.
In 2022, its members accommodated 2,281 people, with at least 1,626 of those accommodated having either NRPF status or refugee status. Its website has a full listing of all member organisations throughout the UK.