By Tolani Alabi

“That is so unfortunate.”

“How did they get themselves in that situation?”

“I’m lucky this can never happen to me.”

I’m sure this is something you’ve thought or heard someone say about the homeless. The question is why a lot of us think like this yet choose to do nothing to help. According to The Salvation Army “more than half of online adults aged 18+ (54%) say they always, or almost always do nothing when they see someone in the street who is homeless.”

The last two weeks in Sanctuary we discussed the perception vs reality of homelessness and explored ways on how we can help. Shelter is a basic need to survive; the fact that there are a rising number of people who do not have this is an injustice.

We saw that some of the reasons for lack of help is a negative perception of the homeless, and yet this shouldn’t be the case since it’s something that can happen more easily than you think. More than a quarter of people say the main cause of homelessness is alcohol or drug addiction (27 per cent) whereas according to The Salvation Army’s survey of its Lifehouses, the main cause of homelessness is actually relationship breakdown (43 per cent), and addiction is only 10%. In reality, there are many complex reasons and it’s easier to be in such a situation that you realise. You could have enough to rent a property but that isn’t always enough. Lack of references or additional funds for a hefty deposit could lead to such unfortunate circumstances of becoming homeless.

Another reason people don’t always help the homeless is because they don’t know how to, and as a result, we concluded our series shedding light in this area. Typically, the best way to help is split into time or resources. There are many great charities out there who need volunteers to run courses such as IT to equip the homeless to integrate back into normal life. Informing the homeless about resources around them is also beneficial. Whilst there are so many organisations that are dedicated to helping the homeless it is worth considering that without a phone or any navigation tool, they may not be aware of such organisations and their location. Something as simple as having a conversation, making them feel like they are not ignored in the world, and providing encouragement can also be greatly appreciated.

In terms of resources just providing a hot meal ensures that at least one meal will be of a good quality. Many charities accept donations of a variety of items such as clothing, and food banks also accept non-perishable food items. You can also donate money for a one-off cause or by direct debit.

Some final thoughts were that most of this helps in the short term but what of those solutions that will deal with the root causes? It’s such a complex situation but creating awareness and changing the negative situation is a big first step.