It was a very cold night on Monday to be walking around outside, let alone sleep out all night. But that’s what many people in London have to do.
I’ve recently become a trustee for The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, a homelessness charity based in the West End. To help get familiarized with the charity and its work, I joined two outreach workers, Eva Kapica and Adrian Purchase, to hit the streets on an ‘outreach shift’ looking for homeless people.
It was an eye-opening experience to the reality for people who sleep rough in our city; especially to the challenge from freezing temperatures, which can be deadly.
We spoke to two rough sleepers about the services Connection offers, such as a place to sleep, hot food, etc. After getting a tip from a national hotline, we headed to a car park where we believed homeless people were staying. We didn’t find anyone and left our cards with the car park attendant.
Back at the centre I had a tour around. There were people preparing to sleep, enjoying a hot meal, watching TV and socialising in general. I got to talk to a few people briefly.
As well as providing short term help to homeless people, the centre also offers advice, counselling, employment training and helps people get into stable living arrangements.
Homelessness is a growing problem and only getting worse in these tough economic times. My greatest fear is that it will continue to escalate as the government cuts funding to homeless charities and our urgent housing problems go unresolved. I encourage everyone to think about donating what they can to charities like Connection at St Martin, or offering a homeless person a hot drink or soup in the cold weather.
My thanks go to Sabrina at Connection for organising my visit and to Eva and Adrian for taking me around.