How To Tell If A Homeless Person Is Lying – As someone who has experienced homelessness, here are my tips on what to do (and what to avoid) if you want to help someone on the street.
Many charities advise against giving money to people sleeping rough. If you prefer not to, you can offer food or drink, but ask what the person would really like. Photo: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian
How To Tell If A Homeless Person Is Lying
Britain’s homelessness crisis is out of control, with the number of homeless people and people sleeping rough at their highest levels since 2010. Every day on our journey to work, school or shopping we pass through tent cities, with flattened cardboard boxes, lined up by the doors. and paper cups lying on the sidewalks. Homelessness is now a part of our lives. This leaves many of us feeling compelled to help, but not sure how to do it in the right way.
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I experienced homelessness. I slept rough in a campsite and on a trail for three weeks before living in hostels for over 18 months. These experiences did not give me any special wisdom about it. Actually, I’m probably not as sure as most of you. But one thing I am sure of, and which my own experience has highlighted, is that homeless people are just that: people. Take it as a starting point: treat them as you would want to be treated if you were ever in that situation.
726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, according to the latest ONS figures. Over the coming months, G2 and Guardian Cities will look behind these statistics to tell the stories of some of those who have died on Britain’s streets. We will tell not only the story of their death, but also the story of their lives: what they were like as children, what their dreams were, their hobbies, what people love about them, what is scandalous. We will also look at what went wrong in their lives, how it affected their loved ones and whether anything could have been done differently to prevent their deaths.
As the series develops, we will invite politicians, charities and homelessness organizations to respond to the issues raised. We’ll also ask readers to offer their own stories and thoughts about homelessness. We want the stories we tell to become a focal point of debate about homelessness; to make a difference in the face of a scourge that shames us all.
Here are my thoughts on what the rest of us should do: the bystanders, the onlookers, those of us who feel anxious and helpless. Some of my suggestions are controversial, and like I said, I don’t think I have all the answers, but I’ve tried to be honest about how I feel and the lessons I’ve learned from being on the streets. to talk to other people in a similar situation then and afterwards, as part of my work with Simon Hattonstone on the Empty Door series.
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What should you do if you see a rough sleeping person whose immediate condition worries you? In England and Wales, the official advice is to report to StreetLink, the national referral service run by St Mungo’s. This seems like a no-brainer – contact StreetLink and they’ll send an experienced person over to try and get this person off the street. But this is not simple either. St Mungo’s, in collaboration with the government’s hostile environmental policy, was found to be recording details of those it helped and passing this information on to the Home Office.
This was stopped in 2017, but rough sleepers still don’t trust them. Many of the rough sleepers I’ve spoken to, including British citizens, refuse StreetLink’s help because of privacy concerns. This lack of confidence has a huge impact on preventing rough sleepers from getting the help they need. It is vital that homeless charities demonstrate their independence from government and start to regain credibility.
We also need to better understand what the practical outcomes of referral to these types of services are. There is evidence that many of the people targeted are already known to the authorities, suggesting that the services to which StreetLink is supposed to refer them are already failing.
Also, in many cases it is difficult for StreetLink to identify or locate the reported person. That is why it is important, if you decide to report, to give as accurate and detailed a description of the person and their location as possible.
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If you are concerned that a homeless person is in immediate danger, perhaps suffering from hypothermia or the effects of medication, you should call an ambulance or contact the police. This is doubly true if the person is under 18, as StreetLink only works with adults. If you are reporting someone to the emergency services, it is best to stay with or near that person until the police or an ambulance arrives. But if your anxiety is more widespread, or if, as is often the case, it’s someone you see often on your street who may be getting worse, intervene. Try to understand their situation, see if they want to be referred, give them as much freedom of choice as possible. Help this person make informed decisions; don’t try to force your decisions on them.
It can be daunting to approach someone you care about on the street. One thing that annoys homeless people is when you talk to them like children. There is nothing more humiliating than having someone crouch over you, literally talking to you. Sit down, share a drink or a drink or a bar of chocolate with them; tell them about your day; ask them about theirs, if they’re getting enough help, and if there’s anything else you can do. Obviously, use your judgment. If they don’t seem receptive to the conversation, don’t force it. Maybe give them a few quid and get on with your day.
Major homeless charities are almost unanimously against people handing money to people sleeping rough. The argument for this is entirely convincing: many rough sleepers suffer from substance dependence, and giving them money allows them to buy more drugs and alcohol, making their lives worse. But put yourself in their shoes. Think you might want a little drink to shake up your rough sleep? Of course you would, so why wouldn’t they? In fact, why not share a can or two with your new homeless partner? Remember, they are only human after all.
If you’re really worried about giving a high five that turns out to be deadly, you can always offer to buy them food or drinks. Don’t buy them in advance. Ask the person what they want. It’s good to be given options when you feel like your life is out of control. Reclaim your humanity.
Homeless Man In Hood Sitting On Street Holding Cardboard With Text Willing To Work Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 84587971
Campaigning is one way to help find long-term solutions to the homelessness crisis. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images
And of course, if you don’t want to donate directly to someone on the street, charities will be happy to take your money (and claim that donations, especially regular ones, help them plan and provide long-term support). Their stores are also very happy to get good quality products to sell. And when the temperatures start to drop, there will be many one-off appeals to donate, for example, a warm coat that you no longer need.
If you’re convinced that handing over cash isn’t the way to go, you can volunteer for one of the many homeless charities. For starters, there are outreach teams you can join where you’ll work with like-minded people to hand out food, drink and clothing. Lots of people volunteer for the crisis at Christmas and that’s great, but it’s a year-round emergency. Charities are always looking for long-term volunteers to work in their shops and fundraise, but also to act as mentors and night shelter workers. They will usually try to use whatever specific skills you have: cooking, computer knowledge, defense and legal knowledge.
More challenging is that some charities are looking for hosts who are willing to provide short-term emergency accommodation for homeless people, especially young people. This will not be for everyone and requires a high level of commitment from the volunteer, who may often have social work or other relevant experience, but the success of the Nightstop UK scheme shows what can be achieved.
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If your concerns go beyond what you see on the streets and you want to help find long-term solutions to this growing crisis, you can always write to your MP with your suggestions, or join, or better yet, organize. – a campaign aimed at putting pressure on the government or its local authority.
One of the most worrying things I found when dealing with the care system and homelessness was the fact that many of the core services responsible for helping people had been outsourced by local authorities and were now the responsibility of the third sector. Although there are many good ones
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