Friday, April 23News For London

Sleep outs vs homelessness in the UK: are charities helpful enough?

One of the methods to resolve homelessness is charity donation, which some people are skeptical about due to lack of evidence on their effectiveness. 

The World’s Big Sleep Out is the latest event to tackle the issue which has affected the UK for a while. The event was held on the 7th of December in 52 cities around the world, including London, New York, Madrid, New Delhi and Amsterdam. It included collective forces of celebrities, charities and public who united in raising funds for organisations that support homeless people.

People’s voices range from an ex-homeless person who was able to share his experience and opinion about charity events, to the participants and the organisers of the charity events. All of them differ but share views on the importance of the issue. 


First-hand experience of a man who used to sleep on the streets

Joel Isaac Iees, 29, is a recording artist and music producer working in London. Family disagreements forced him to leave home, and he ended up on the streets for five to six years.

Speaking to Westminster World, Iees recalled his own experience: “It was always very cold, and people were struggling to find more warmth. In summer it’s different – you’re actually outside 24 hours a day in blistering heat.”

Iees emphasised on the complications that come when homeless people receive help from charities. “They have to see you are sleeping on the street three times to declare you homeless,” he explained. There is a high demand for help from charities. Therefore, charities have to be targeting homeless people from their boroughs to be able to provide housing aid.

Although it was hard to see help coming directly to himself or other homeless people on the streets of London, Iees believes charities might work with other organisations.” There is a considerable amount of money needed for the homeless sector, especially if they’re planning to eradicate homelessness, which I know they are trying to. That will take a lot of money. So raising funds would be verybeneficial to London and the UK,” he said.

An event that motivated people and raised awareness 

The campaign was launched by Josh Littlejohn MBE, co-founder of Scottish-based charity Social Bite, known for its offer of employment and free food for the homeless. They were 60,000 individuals who participated in the World’s Big Sleep Out which took place on the 7th of December.

But they were not homeless, nor were they pretending to be. It was a  general public who stood up for the importance of tackling homelessness around the world. Celebrities, musicians and public speakers emphasised the importance of the event through their speeches, motivating people to take their chance in making the world a better place.

The view of the World’s Big Sleep Out through the eyes of participants

BBC Breakfast presenter Charlie Stayt, was at the event with his co-presenter Naga Munchetty. Speaking to Westminster World, he stated: “To a degree, big events like this are happening here, it’s happening in Edinburgh, all over the world as well. It’s a moment in time (. . . ), and I think that’s the hope, it draws attention to the issue.”

Asha, 22, a participant, said: “I think the only big change can come with politics.” 

Aidan, 23, slept the night at Trafalgar Square. “I think if these events can raise awareness and get people involved in those charities more, then I think that can make a direct impact on peoples’ lives,”he said.

However, a homeless man standing by a fence at the event was told to leave by a security guard. This demonstrates that there is bias surrounding the occasion to a certain extent, as homeless people were the reason why it took place.

What does the data tell us?

More than 100 million people are homeless around the world, according to research commissioned by IGH.

In the UK, over 34 percent of rough sleepers come from rented private accommodation. Soaring rents, lack of affordable housing, health and social services reforms andwelfare cuts are few reasons why people abandon their housing.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan described the growth as a “national disgrace”. The government announced annual spending of £19.2 million for the cause this year. That is a significant increase compared to the £8.4 million spent when Khan assumed his role in 2016.




How are these events beneficial?

Dame Louise Casey DBE CB, the Chair of The World’s Big Sleep Out Trust, told us: “We hope at least 50 percent will go directly to the charities.” She also said: “Homelessness has been on the rise with 88 percent of whom have drug, alcohol or mental health problems. They’re vulnerable. I love London, and I don’t want people dying on the streets.” 

Like many of Sleep Out’s donors, the Deloitte team raised £120,000 across the UK sleep out events with 100 percent of funds going to registered charities. The campaign launched in 2016 aims to secure employment and education 

for one million people worldwide through their One Million Futures initiative. The event raised £7.6m before midnight and aims to reach £38m by Christmas.

According to the Office for National Statistics, rough sleeper rates have improved outside urban areas and cities constituting a two percent decline across the country. It is the first time in almost a decade that numbers have not risen. 

Besides these fundraisers, this could be credited to the government’s rough sleeping scheme launched in August 2018 by the communities secretary, James Brokenshire. “While these figures are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, I don’t underestimate the task ahead in achieving our ambition of eliminating rough sleeping by 2027,” he stated to The Guardian.

According to their annual survey, trust in charities have fallen from 51 to 48 percent since 2016. People argue that many charities are unregistered and are scams; thus, they are not recognised by the public. Some highlighted the costs of these events are hugely underestimated and are not only expensive but also effort and time-consuming.

 There might not be a perfect strategy of fund distribution yet. Still, there are visible improvements such as informing public and decrease in homelessness in 2018. Getting the public informed, involving local communities and starting campaigns – all can contribute to a successful resolution of homelessness. 


|Sera Mathews – Writer, researcher & transcriber

|Polina Mikhlina– Infographics, transcriber & assistant researcher

|Benedict Steininger – Videographer & interviewer

|Tereza Tomanova- Interviewer & video editor,Social Media Promoter

|Stephanie Valdivia – Lead editor, videographer & press outreach