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Sunday, Oct 25, 2020

How to help if you see a sick homeless person

Mark Mummery, a homeless man living in Grimsby, died last week. According to reports, his body lay on the street for three hours before anyone noticed.

"Nobody seemed to be taking any notice of him at all, even though there was clearly something wrong. He was just lying there lifeless," a local resident told Grimsby Live.

Homelessness is on the rise in England - 280,000 people are homeless, mainly consisting of people who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation. This figure is up 23,000 since 2016, according to the charity Shelter.

Last year, at least 726 homeless people died in England and Wales.

So what should you do if you see a rough sleeper who appears unwell?

Two in three British people want to help when they see a homeless person, but aren't always sure how to, research by charity Crisis shows.

"British people care about homelessness and they want to help but uncertainty and nervousness are stopping them," says Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis.

If you see a homeless person, Crisis advises:

Call 999 if you have immediate concerns about their welfare
Ask if there is anything they need such as a hot drink or food, warm clothing and blankets
Say hello or stop for a chat
"Many people we work with tell us that not being acknowledged or treated as a fellow human being can be just as painful as the physical hardships," adds Mr Sparkes.


'Difficult or scary prospect'


Andrew Mcleay, a support worker at Ealing soup kitchen in London, says striking up a conversation with a homeless person can be a "difficult or scary" prospect.

But he believes that "taking that risk - for the most part - is better than walking by."

If you see a homeless person who is ill, approach them and ask what you can do to help, Mr Mcleay advises.

"Don't worry about saying the wrong thing. More often than not they are just grateful someone spoke to them, because that could be their only conversation that day."

If you're urgently concerned for someone's welfare, call 999 immediately.

"No one should be left on the streets for hours - that is a horrible thought, and quite a sad and lonely end to a story. Think - maybe that person has a family. Wouldn't you want your family to know?", says Mr Mcleay.


'We got him the help he needed'


His teams on patrol frequently seek medical attention for homeless people, and they have driven people with broken bones and other injuries to A&E.

"One older gentleman we encountered on the street just looked horrendous," Mr Mcleay recalls.

"He was quite weak and I asked him what had happened. He said he hadn't eaten so we gave him some food, but he looked terrible so I asked if I could phone the ambulance, and he agreed.

"The ambulance look him away, and at least we felt he was going to get the help he needed."


Contacting professionals


If you want to find professional help for a homeless person, you can contact government-funded StreetLink, which alerts local authorities in England and Wales about rough sleepers.

StreetLink will contact professionals who will try to find the rough sleepers and help them access shelter and food.

You can call StreetLink or use their website or app to enter details of the location, time and date you saw the person, and any other information you have.

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