These innovative ideas to help homeless people go way beyond just throwing money at charities. The charities do great work, but obviously other ideas are needed to, that think out of the box.
Most homeless people do not choose to live this way. Often it’s caused by being widowed, divorced, ill or escaping abuse. It’s cold, dangerous, boring and most homeless people die at age just 47 (men) and 43 (women). Streetlink lets you contact local authorities or hostels, if you are concerned for the wellbeing of a homeless person.
How to Help Dogs of Homeless People
Would you like to know how to help dogs of homeless people? Often these dogs have strong bonds with their human guardians, but obviously it’s not very nice to live in all weathers on the streets. Thankfully there are really kind people to help. Many people on the streets have very close relationships with their dogs, as they are all each other has got. For dogs, it’s important to help their humans too.
Dogs on the Streets (DOTS for short)
Dogs on the Streets is the main nationwide charity, with all donations going to help street dogs. Dotty Dog Art illustrates greetings cards to help this wonderful charity which has stations in London, Kent, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Oxford and Taunton. If you see a person in these locations with a dog, tell them about DOTS. Read Poppy the Street Dog, the story on how the charity was founded. Michelle Clark had always filled her home with stray cats and abandoned dogs and when her outreach took her to London’s homeless community, where a chance meeting with a lovely dog began the idea. Some of the wonderful things they do include:
- Vet care for those who need it (or referral)
- Phone consults & repeat prescriptions
- Delivering pet food for local collection
- If homeless people are offered hostels, they have a 3-acre 64-kennel sanctuary where pets can stay if not allowed at the hostels. The pet guests are not kept in kennels all day, but are given outside play time on green land. All snugs are fully heated.
- Fostering for pets of London Ambulance & NHS staff that need help, or have to go into hospital.
- On-street outreach – visiting rough sleepers whose dogs (and them) need food and water.
Their vet vehicles enable voluntary first-hand care and support to offer vaccinations, basic medical care, biopsies and blood tests, with results in 5 minutes. They can also offer regular flea and worm treatment, along with care from vet nurses in a warm safe environment, with support for their human guardians.
One homeless man got a criminal record for stealing dog food, because he had no money. Now he gets free food, health care and advice from DOTS. Another says he and his dog look forward to the DOTS weekly visits, they are more like his family. And another said they saved his dog’s life, after he could not afford his dog’s medicine.
As the charity is not given priority for PPE, they appreciate donations of spare gloves, masks and sanitisers. Obviously donations are appreciated, as are more volunteers. Just imagine the difference if this organisation could go nationwide in every town and city, to help street dogs.
Other Places to Help Street Dogs
- Dog’s Trust Hope Project offers free vet care, just register at participating vets. The pack includes a card for treatment, and a list of dog-friendly hostels nationwide.
- Street Vet and Street Paws offer free vet care to street dogs in several towns and cities.
- Give a Dog a Coat has kind volunteers who knit squares (or donate dog coats & sweaters) to help dogs in London and Essex.
- Elsewhere? In the US, In the US, Pets of the Homeless does stellar work. For Australia, see Pets of the Homeless and Pets in the Park.
A Waterproof Bed for Street Dogs
Indian animal charity Jeevshakti Foundation has a video showing you how to make waterproof beds for street dogs. Many people asked them to share their brilliant idea for waterproof jute bedding that uses empty plastic bags from the dog food filled with cotton or fabric to protect from cold, and the thick jute stitching to make it warm and uses 5 simple steps, with dog shelters and reflective piping to be seen in the dark.
Housing Ideas for Homeless People
- Homes for the Homeless were created by architect James Furzer, who was appalled to learn that some councils use ‘spikes’ to stop homeless people sleeping on park benches. These pods attach to sides of buildings, warmed by air vents.
- Buses 4 Homeless refurbishes London buses, turning them into 16-bunks with kitchen/diner, learning space & health centre.
- Amazing Grace Spaces include a bed, toilet, phone charger and unique secure keycode. Made from a shipping container.
- Ulm Nest are being piloted in a city in Germany. These are futuristic pods that can fit 2 people and can be locked, and are ideal for temporary accommodation and are also being used for those with pets, as the perfect alternative if there are no dog-friendly hostels. Ideal to prevent frostbite.
- Goldsmith Street (Norwich) is a social housing project, heating bills are £150 a year. An alternative to cold, damp and dilapidated housing for people on low incomes.
- Tent City Urbanism tells the story of Portland’s Dignity Village, where local people live in tents, to create their own housing estates, when councils won’t help. KarTent is a waterproof cardboard affordable tent that is as safe as any other tent (it’s easy to escape in fire, as there are no guy ropes to stumble over). You can also buy cardboard chairs.
- Housing Reclaimed is a book about US communities who create beautiful homes, by doing up homes slated for demolition.
- Green Pastures is a wonderful organisation that asks churches to invest their money in them instead of with the bank (a better investment). They then use the money to buy properties to give stable homes to homeless people. Some of those in their care have got off drink and drunks, found work and left abusive relationships, to live safely with their children.
More Ideas to Help Homeless People
- Greater Change (Oxford) receives notification of local homeless people. Then it pools donations for
- Camden Routes (London) and Safer Off The Streets (Peterborough) are run by networks of local volunteers and churches. You donate to them, and they find rough sleepers reported to councils, and get them into hostels (with dogs, if relevant), get them medical care and addiction treatment, and help sort out their benefits etc.
- Streets Kitchen offers daily outreach for hot food and drinks, clothing and more at 10 locations, and work with Street Vet for vet care. Download their guide How to Start Your Own Streets Kitchen. You just need volunteers, donated food and clothes, a suitable location and a little local media coverage. You could also start a Food Not Bombs chapter (using leftover food to feed people for free in public spaces).
Sleeping Bags to Help the Homeless
These sleeping bags to help the homeless are ideal for people who sleep rough. It’s not only cold on the pavement, but uncomfortable too. And there are added risks like fire, theft and security. Here are some wonderful inventions that go beyond the typical sleeping bag. If you would like to donate blankets, ask your local homeless shelter, as many have blankets stashed in hostels. And obviously lugging around heavy blankets may not be the best solution, unless there is somewhere safe to stash them.
Sheltersuit is a a wind-and-waterproof jacket inspired by the designer’s friend, whose father died of hypothermia while waiting for accommodation. It provides jobs by upcycling leftover garment textiles into a breathable suit that also includes a sleeping bag, which folds into a duffel bag. The hood shields the face from rain and streetlights, and features an integrated scarf. It also has a built-in pillow and room for an extra mattress or blanket, and a flexible tent pole integrated in the hood to keep it upright.
- Sleep Pod are insulated self-warming tents that cost £25 to make. One user said ‘I slept solidly for 8 hours straight. I can’t remember the last time I did that’. Thought up at a refugee camp, the project has hundreds of volunteers who help to make/distribute.
- Duffily is a reflective, waterproof and non-flammable sleeping bag, invented by an Irish teen. The pillow doubles as storage space.
- KipBags contain donated sleeping bags, toiletries, socks, hats & plasters, along with a homeless information pack.
- Empowerment Plan is a weather-resistant coat or shoulder bag, which transforms into a sleeping bag. Made from upcycled fabric.
Churches That Help Homeless People
- Street Pastors is a network of volunteers who offer emotional support to anyone vulnerable. These are the guys who hand out flip-flops to drunk young ladies!
- Emmaus is a charity set up by French priest Abbé Pierre decades ago, after learning of a women who died clutching her eviction notice (followed by the baby of a homeless couple freezing to death on the street). Donate furniture & bric-a-brac and items are refurbished by homeless people who get a job, home and salary (white goods are PAT-tested, before being sold on in their nationwide shops).
- The Salvation Army has many volunteers to help homeless people. You can also donate unwanted clothes & shoes to their charity banks, found in most major towns.
- Hope into Action was inspired by meeting a newly-released prisoner, who was drinking on a bench, as he had nowhere to go. It works with over 50 churches who invest in property instead of the bank. These buildings are then used to give a leg-up for society’s forgotten: addicts, former prostitutes, people fleeing abuse, survivors of trafficking and those with mental health issues.
- Housing Justice has volunteers at local night shelters. Other charities that help include Church Homeless Trust, Glass Door & Robes (London), Cambridge Churches Homeless Project & Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness.
Shop Swaps to Help Homeless People
These shop swaps to help homeless people, are ideal if you are planning to buy something anyway, and if you buy from these stores, profits help people who are homeless. It’s just a case of switching where you buy.
- Hopeful Traders offers organic cotton Fair Trade sweatshirts & hoodies. Instead of just giving to homeless charities, they collaborative with people who have (or still do) experience issues of homelessness & mental health, to give them more direct help.
- Pivot is a jewellery brand that makes nice hoop or moon stainless steel earrings. This social enterprise provides part-time meaningful employment to people experiencing homelessness, to help get them back into work and into permanent accommodation. It all appears vegan-friendly, check before purchase.
- Flo is a brand of organic cotton & bamboo pads and tampons (don’t use tampons until at least 6 weeks after giving birth, speak to your midwife). Profits are used to help chosen charities (donating menstrual items to homeless people, refugees & asylum seekers).
- Emmaus is a nationwide network of charity shops. If you need furniture or white goods (or some bric-a-brac), this organisation (set up by a French Catholic priest after he heard of a baby freezing to death on the Paris streets, and a woman found dead on the streets, clutching her eviction notice). The organisation employs homeless people to do up goods (white goods are PAT-tested for safety) then sells them on at a discounted price. This enables people to build skills and stay somewhere safe, as they gradually sort their lives out. Abbé Pierre was awarded an honour in France, but refused it, saying he would not take medals from a government that treated homeless people as second-class citizens.
- Change Please employs homeless people to become trained baristas. Or buy someone a Billy Chip (this can be used at cafes for homeless people to get a hot drink). Worldwide, Suspended Coffees signs up coffee shops to pre-pay a homeless person a cup of coffee.
Mobile Showers for Homeless People
These mobile showers to help homeless people, are a great idea. Just because someone is living on the streets, does not mean that they don’t miss a nice warm shower, and also some of these organisations to wash and dry their blankets, dog blankets, clothes and coats. Feels nice, and helps to find permanent accommodation and work, if required.
- Orange Sky Australia is a good idea from Australia, set up by friends who run a van on a generator that enables homeless people to get their washing and laundry done for free. It now operates in 6 cities. Powered by volunteers and donations, it’s now pairing up to offer food vans too, so people can have a hot meal, while they wait for their laundry.
- Hygiene for All (Brighton) offers a mobile laundry van and a mobile shower van for local homeless people. They can brush their teeth, wash hair and hands, clean soap and receive clean undies and feminine hygiene products.
- ShowerBox offers a free secure shower to the 9000 people who sleep rough in London each year, many go weeks or months without a shower. This is not only good for hygiene and to get a job, but also to help stop the spread of disease.
Help a Homeless Londoner Find Work
Beam crowdfunds donations to help Londoners who are homeless find work. Meet vetted applicants who tell you how they ended up homeless, what their passions are, and what they would like to do with their lives. 100% of your donation helps and you’re updated of their progress. One woman is now working as a beautician and a former drug addict is now now working as a bricklayer. All candidates get regular support, and 70% sustain regular work for at least 6 months. Some of the people helped include:
- One woman who was homeless is now working as a beautician.
- A former drug addict is now working as a bricklayer
- Another homeless person is hoping to find a stable home for his children
A Water Bottle to Help Homeless People
This water bottle to help homeless people is perfect for daily commutes, picnics in the park, the gym or by your desk, with a handle on top, to stay hooked. Made from super-insulated stainless steel, the bottle comes with two free bottle caps (one with a handle and one without). It can keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours. Leakproof, do not put in dishwasher or microwave.
Choosing a reusable water bottle is one of the best ways to help the planet. Most good ones are made from double-walled insulated stainless steel, as this inert material will not affect the taste of your water or other drinks. Plastic water bottles never biodegrade. And if discarded, the solid plastic gradually breaks down into microplastics, millions of pieces of tiny plastics that are invisible to marine wildlife, which accidentally ingest them, if water bottles fall down storm drains and reach the sea.
Bamboo Socks to Help the Homeless
These bamboo socks to help the homeless help to give profits to help people who are homeless, through practical and financial help. Bamboo is a fast-growing biodegradable and naturally anti-bacterial grass (industrial bamboo should not be taken from panda habitats). These socks also contain a little non-biodegradable elastane, so wash in a microfiber catch bag (catches microplastic fibres).
- Leiho Socks are sold in pairs or as gift packs. Homeless people often walk several miles a day to find food and shelter, so clean socks are always good. Profits give fresh water in cardboard cartons to homeless people, to prevent dehydration/heatstroke).
- Stand 4 Socks produce quality socks in many fun colourful designs. The difference is that for each pair sold, the company donates another pair of thick anti-bacterial socks to a homeless person. The socks all have a small cause logo on the ankle, to show you how the sock helps: it could power a hospital, clear landmines or plant trees.
- In Short Supply (Sheffield) collects donations of clean socks. The charity Socks & Chocs also gives socks, bedding & toiletries.
The Big Issue Magazine
So you’ve seen the people on the street selling this popular magazine, and you know it helps people become independent. But do you know any more? It was founded by John Bird, who was born in a London slum to an Irish family, and after becoming homeless, lived in an orphanage from the age of 7 to 10, and was often excluded from school. He became a right little tearaway, supplementing his income with stealing and spent quite a few spells in prison, where he began to learn about the printing industry.
After becoming homeless again (while on the run from the police for petty offences), he set up a little printing business and even washed dishes in Parliament, where he later became a life peer. He launched the magazine in 1991 to help homeless people earn their own income and there are now over 100 similar papers worldwide via the International Network of Street Papers. His Big Issue Investment Fund has since raised over £30 million for hundreds of social enterprises nationwide. He was asked to stand by the Conservatives as London mayor instead of Boris Johnson but he turned it down as he is non-partisan, saying his focus is ‘anti-poverty’. He is a bit subdued now:
It was not my intention of aiding an abetting that former editor of The Spector, that self-appointed historian, Old Etonian, Old Bullingdonian, to climb the greasy pole of stardom of a political kind. My role was that I gave up a chance of becoming the Mayor of London. And Johnson, sweating that weekend because it looked as if I might take it up, blew a deep sigh of relief when I refused the offer. Will the electorate of coming times demand more than the bun fight we’ve witnessed so far? Johnson may be the last of the political dinosaurs. Perhaps a new politics is well within the making. John Bird
The Big Issue magazine replaces begging. Vendors buy it for £1.50, then sell it for £3 and vendors collectively earns over £5 for homeless people each year. They receive a fixed pitch with training, and choose their hours of work, together they sell over 83,000 copies a week, across 63 distribution points. They get 5 free magazines immediately, to start earning right away.
This is a vegan site so we don’t recommend the leather or bone china goods in the shop. If you wish to support the site, we recommend the handmade cards and reusable water bottles instead! Or buy the tribute issue to Bob the street cat, about a beautiful cat who saved the life of a homeless man. He sadly died recently in a car accident.
In November 2020, the government announced a scheme so that rough sleepers could be sheltered over winter. Many councils got extra funding. In fact, it was all quite heartening. Nearly 15,000 people in England were for the first time ever given emergency accommodation and the policy director of Crisis is now worried that we may return to ‘normal’, when this could be the start of something different.
Today for Tomorrow is a site started by Lord John Bird (founder of The Big Issue, above). His Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill has been brought in to highlight how COVID-19 showed up that not enough was done to support the homeless. Many successive governments have just ‘let homeless people sleep on the streets’ for years, and it was only a worldwide pandemic that forced them to act ‘for the health of the homeless’. But rough sleepers have been dying on the streets for years.
A good example of this is the building industry. Millions of people need clean, warm and sustainable homes. Yet although many concrete homes are built for people on larger budgets, (cheaper) sustainable homes made from materials like straw bale (which can be made from leftover hay that is otherwise burned, causing greenhouse gases) are not built?
Email your MP to ask them to pledge their support. Co-sponsored by Green MP Caroline Lucas (it’s not political, MPs from every side are joining in), this Bill make it a legal requirement to put environmental, social, economic and cultural wellbeing at the forefront of policy. This sounds similar to the wellbeing index that Canadian economist Mark Anielski brought in to his native province of Alberta, which now has a 10-year plan to end homelessness report.
The Little Book of Bob
Bob the cat became a worldwide sensation and inspiration after his ‘human’ James wrote a book about him A Street Cat Named Bob. James was an addict living on the streets, with not much hope for anything. But then coming across this little injured cat, he took him to the vet, and moved him in to get him better. When no-one claimed him, he did and so began a beautiful friendship, that not only saved both their lives, but turned James’ life around.
His recent book The Little Book of Bob shares his wisdom with the world. There was a plan to open a series of cafes in London for people to support, and feral cats to sleep in. The book is a lasting legacy to little Bob, who sadly recently died in a car accident.