HOMELESSNESS is a problem all year round.

But as the nights draw in and the temperature drops, it’s something a lot of us tend to think about more often.  

With Christmas just over a week away we may decide we want to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves ­­­­– so how can we do this?  

Martin Gavin, improvement lead at Homeless Network Scotland, says the best way for people to help with homelessness is to prevent it before it starts.  

To do that, people are encouraged to “ask and act”.  

Glasgow Times: Simon Community Scotland Street TeamSimon Community Scotland Street Team

Martin said: “In communities, because all homelessness begins in a community, people should ask their neighbours, their friends, family members, people they come into contact with, if they’re worried about someone’s housing situation. 

“If there’s just something that gives you a sense that something’s not right, ask.  

“Ask people ‘is everything okay’, ‘is everything alright with your housing’, ‘is everything okay with your tenancy’.  

“Maybe somebody walks away from the school in a different direction from the way they used to go, look for things like that.  

“A lot of people won’t want to pry of course, but if we want to really prevent homelessness we can ask people about their housing. 

“If the person gives you an indication that they’re struggling or they’re at risk of homelessness, then we’re asking people to act, do something.” 

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Glasgow Times: Simon Community Scotland Street TeamSimon Community Scotland Street Team

If people don’t feel comfortable approaching someone to ask about their housing situation or aren’t sure how to advise someone if you do, there are places in Glasgow you can go for help. 

Ashley Young is head of services at Simon Community Scotland, a charity that provides advice and information, helps people find and keep accommodation in a crisis or more long term.

It also provides support or advocacy when people need to visit or call a service and has an Access Hub on Argyle Street which is open seven days a week. 

She says they receive calls and emails daily from members of the public expressing concern for others and asking for advice.  

She said: “At times, people come and say, ‘look I’m worried about my brother, or I’m worried about a neighbour, what would the process be, what are the numbers I can give or who would I be best to signpost them to’ and based on what they say we can tell them.  

“If they’ve got more detail and people are more inclined to share what’s going on and are more likely to engage then we would ultimately encourage them to come into the Access Hub because although we work with people that are homeless, we can do some work around preventing homelessness.” 

Glasgow Times: Image from Glasgow City MissionImage from Glasgow City Mission

Simon Community Scotland also has a Street Team, commissioned by Glasgow City Council, who work across the city to support people rough sleeping or at risk of homelessness, and respond to intelligence of potential rough sleeping sites.  

Last week alone, the team prevented 34 people from sleeping rough, and while this may be the image we have of homelessness, thanks to the work of organisations like this, there are currently just five people sleeping rough in Glasgow. 

Most homelessness is not visible, whether that be people living in temporary accommodation or sofa surfing and staying with friends or family, but what all different forms of homelessness have in common is that the person has no fixed address.  

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Jack Geddes, marketing and fundraising manager at Glasgow City Mission, says if you see someone begging on the street, he recommends offering friendship first. 

He said: “You could chat, offer to buy them a hat or a pair of gloves if it’s cold, or ask would they like a sandwich or a hot drink.” 

If you want to donate money, while giving someone it directly may meet an immediate need, donating to one of the several charities across the city may mean your money goes further, or you can donate to a service like Street Change Glasgow which then splits money across various organisations.   

Some agencies, such as the Glasgow City Mission, also accept vouchers that may be given out to people to allow them to make purchase necessities and make their own choices.  

People may also benefit from a top-up for gas or electricity or a phone top-up so they can stay connected with family and friends.  

Jack added: “You aren’t begging on the street, especially in the rain and cold, unless you have serious issues, so that’s why people should be treated with dignity.” 

Glasgow Times: Image from Glasgow City MissionImage from Glasgow City Mission