There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.John Holmes
Ok so I’ll be honest, I’m not incredibly happy right now. I’m not ashamed to say I’m having a little bit of a socio-political existential crisis. However, on Friday, as I got ready to go to work full of bitter disappointment, confusion and frustration about what the UK just did to itself, a colleague of mine messaged asking if I had any books.
She was making sandwiches and gathering books to hand out to the homeless – in the immediate aftermath of mass political support for a party that’s already hit the vulnerable most, she’d decided to take it on herself to try and help where she could. It doesn’t seem to just be me or my colleague either who’ve had this reaction – in fact, food banks have already seen a spike in donations these past few days alone.
Today and yesterday I’m laying out my own plans to help as much as possible. With this in mind, here’s 5 small ways to help the vulnerable over this Christmas period.
[Sidebar: I live in London, but most of these things should still be available in your area. Let me know if you have more suggestions to help!]
1. Food banks.
How many weird tins are in your cupboard that you won’t throw away because you might one day need them? You don’t need them, take them to your nearest foodbank and help support people in your community. Most supermarkets now contain food banks, so if you’re not able to afford buying additional food to donate, just give it a go rustling through your cupboard and take a bag over to the supermarket.
2. Donate your old clothes.
I feel better donating clothes than binning them 100%, and (hoarder that I am) it makes it easier to part with items I’m struggling to let go of. In most cases you can literally just wander into a charity shop with some binbags – just make sure to call ahead – but some charities go one step easier and offer to collect the clothes themselves! This is also a really low effort way to make a difference.
Get clothes collected with Traid
Get clothes collected with the British Heart Foundation
3. Give blood.
The NHS needs help right now – in particular it needs 135,000 more blood donors a year, from all different walks of life. This is because we have different blood types, and the more varied the people are that donate, the more diversity of donations available for patients.
4. Request help for rough sleepers with the StreetLink app.
According to latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the number of deaths of homeless people in England and Wales rose by a record 22% last year, to 726, the Office for National Statistics reports.
Loads of people feel awful seeing someone out in the cold but might be uncomfortable approaching them for whatever reason – but the StreetLink app is trying to help prevent the bystander effect without asking us to make contact.
The app allows you to report someone homeless sleeping out in the cold, and the alert will go to relevant helpers and charities to come and do a care check on the individual. You can download the app for free on apple here, or android here!
5. Grab an extra coffee or snack when you eat (and carry a spare pair of socks).
Ok this one’s straightforward, but I’ve been looking at the best things to give homeless people if you don’t have money (or cash, more specifically). If you’re in an area with a large amount of homelessness like London, grab 2 breakfast bars instead of one, and keep it on you in the day. Same goes for carrying a spare pair of fresh, clean socks with you – it can really make a big difference to someone sleeping rough. For other ideas to give, there’s some great suggestions here.
Want to do more?
If you’re willing to dedicate time or organise more for the community, that’s amazing! There’s a brilliant crowdsourced help document going around right now that can give some great ideas and info about helping out in your area.
Listen, I’m willing to still hope that there’s a chance that after Brexit, this new-old government actually delivers on its promises – but until that time, we need each other more than ever.
Anything I’ve missed? Let me know any other great ideas for helping the vulnerable over Christmas in the comments.
Lots of love,