One of the actions suggested within the new London Charter to End Rough Sleeping is Acknowledging people – emphasising the importance of ‘Acknowledging people when they talk to you or ask you for money, even if you decide you would rather not give it to them directly’.
Knowing how to do this though – and how to be most helpful – can be hard.
A new short film now available sets out the five steps to helping those experiencing homelessness. The film, ‘The Alert approach’, made by Hope worldwide UK and presented by its Director of Homeless Services Rob Payne, asks, “What should you do when see someone who looks homeless?”, and suggests a simple approach that spells ALERT – Ask, Listen, Empathise, Respond, Take action.
So rather than saying, “Sorry I haven’t got any change”, in the film a passerby says, “I’m sorry I haven’t got any change,” and asks, “Is anyone helping you?”. They then sit down to talk.
The film quotes someone experiencing homeless as saying they would rather someone gave two minutes of their time than £10 from their wallet explaining: “You feel invisible on the streets, it means a lot when someone stops, says ‘Hi’, and treats you like a human being”.
In following the ALERT approach, having asked if anyone is helping, listening carefully to what they say, and empathising with their situation, the next step is to respond by sharing what you could do to help – the film gives the practical example of helping someone with an online referral to Streetlink.
Other examples of taking action include giving the person who is homeless something they like, doing some research into what help is available locally, or supporting an organisation that’s supporting people experiencing homelessness.
We hope this film will help you with your interactions with people experiencing homelessness and don't forget to explore the other actions and principles and sign the Charter!
Homeless Link also emphasises that social interaction and support are important all year round and urges you to stop and have a conversation with someone sleeping rough in this guide about how to help someone sleeping rough.