Would you know how to help a young person sleeping rough? Centrepoint does!

We’ve all seen a young person sleeping in a doorway but what’s the best way to help them? Our corporate charity partner Centrepoint has been supporting homeless young people since 1969. It began as a shelter in the basement of a church in Soho, London, but now has over 60 accommodation services across the UK. 

As our charity partner for 2019 Centrepoint’s reach and expertise continues to impress me and all my colleagues. But rather than call the Centrepoint helpline, there are six ways they recommend we can help a homeless young person, especially now it’s winter.

1. Refer them to Streetlink

StreetLink allows members of the public to connect young people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them. This is the best way to find young people out on the streets immediate support in cold weather. You can download the StreetLink app from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store.

You can also call their 24 hour helpline on 0300 500 0914 or visit their website. When you send an alert, you should include:

  1. A specific location where the young person is sleeping.
  2. The time you saw the young person at this location.
  3. Any information about the young person that will help outreach workers find them (for example, gender, age, what the person looks like, what they’re wearing).

If you can, it’s probably best to let the young person know you’re referring them, as they may not want their details shared with other agencies. You can also ask them if they’re happy to pass on their mobile number so it’s easier for outreach workers to contact them.

2. Stop and talk to the young person to see if there’s anything they need

This could include food, drink, thermals, bedding, a travelcard or a reusable water bottle. While long-term help makes the biggest difference, having a conversation with a young person over a cup of tea can be really important.

3. Get in touch with your council and ask about SWEP

SWEP stands for Severe Weather Emergency Protocol and provides emergency support for rough sleepers when the temperatures drop drastically. During SWEP councils open extra beds in night shelters as well as other services.

This is dependent on guidelines, but it’s worth checking with your council to see if SWEP is in operation and how those sleeping rough can access it. Find your local council here >

4.   Refer young people to day centres

Day centres offer practical help such as a hot meal and access to showers and laundry facilities. You can find your nearest day centre by using Homeless Link’s directory or calling the Centrepoint Helpline on 0808 800 0661.

5.   If you have some spare time, you might also be able to volunteer at a day centre if they need an extra pair of hands

If someone appears to be in immediate danger or seems unwell, please call 999.

6.   Call the Centrepoint helpline

Centrepoint’s helpline is there to offer advice to anyone in England aged 16-25 who’s homeless or at risk and connect young people to the right services. Call them for free on 0808 800 0661 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).

You can also talk to them online (Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm) here: https://centrepoint.org.uk/youth-homelessness/get-help-now/

Centrepoint has been supporting homeless young people since 1969. It began as a shelter in the basement of a church in Soho, London, but now has over 60 accommodation services across the UK. 

They've made a big difference to the lives of many young people, but there's still more to be done. Centrepoint estimates that 86,000 young people asked their local council for help in 2016/17 because they were homeless or at risk of homelessness. 

This isn't acceptable. That's why we're committed to helping vulnerable young people break the cycle of homelessness.


Mandy Ferries is HR Director at FirstPort UK