ROUGH sleeping is a growing problem in Worcester, as with many other places, but how best can we help the city's homeless people?

It may be tempting to offer cash directly to those who ask for it on the street - but giving a few minutes of your time to tell rough sleepers about the support available to them may be more helpful, according to Jonathan Sutton, chief executive of St Paul's Hostel in Tallow Hill, Worcester.

Here, Mr Sutton shares his own experience on how we can all help to address this complex and emotive issue and answers the questions people ask to show how we can all do our bit in a way that is useful and meaningful for those living without homes in our city.

Who do you see on the streets?

If you visit, live or work in Worcester city, you will sometimes see people on the street. Some sleeping rough, in shop doorways or along the river, some are drinking excessively in the city centre, and others are begging – occasionally aggressively. Rough sleeping, excessive street drinking and begging are not the same. People who beg are not necessarily rough sleeping (or indeed without a place to stay) and someone who sleeps rough may not need or want to beg. Each needs help, whether they belong to only one or all three of these groups.

Many people who find themselves on the street have unmet care and support needs. Those of us who work directly with them know this through the work we do every day. Some of their problems are complex and take time to solve. Some have a background of childhood abuse or neglect. Quite a few have had alcoholic or violent parents. Poor physical health can be obvious, but there are hidden mental health illnesses, which often lead to and are made worse by, drug and drink addictions.

Our city does not want to demonise people on the street for the situation they find themselves in.

What should I do if I see someone sleeping rough?

Tell supportive services using Street Link. By using the Street Link app, you can note down the place or street a person is and they can send someone to see him or her.


Tell people on the streets that that there are charities, churches and services in the city where they can get help. Magg’s Day Centre, St Paul’s Hostel and Caring for Communities (CCP) have experienced and trained staff who know what to do. Tell them to visit The Hive and the City Council staff will help them make the connection.

What if they say they are banned from hostel/support centre - is this true?

St Paul’s Hostel and Magg’s Day Centre have over 70 years of experience between them. They know how important it is for people to be able to access their services and suspending someone from accessing services is the last resort. It is also important for the public to understand why someone might be suspended from services for a short period. The two principle reasons are; the dealing of illegal drugs and/or threatening violence or being violent to others in the service.

Homelessness is more than ‘rooflessness, it’s about the lack of stable, secure and affordable accommodation. Providing tents might seem like an easy solution but it rarely leads to someone accessing the help they really need. There is very strong evidence that rough sleeping is very damaging to physical and mental health – it is a form of self-neglect. Local homeless charities do not give tents.

What should I give to homeless people?

It is your choice (about whether you give money to people who ask for help on the street) but the hard-won experience of those who work with people – and those who were on the street - is that money nearly always goes on hard drugs or alcohol not on the things people say they need help with such as food, clothing or accommodation.

Instead, give someone a cup of tea or coffee and something to eat. It’s even better if you can also take the opportunity to ask the person what happened to them and then suggest where they can get help.

What else can I do?

Buy a copy of the Big Issue - a long-established and well-run national scheme. The city vendors are registered and approved and they purchase the magazines from the local distributor at cost price and then sell them to the public. The Big Issue is also a good way of understanding more about homelessness. Big Issue vendors like to talk to people and if you have time stop for a chat and get to know the person. Please note that Big Issue sellers are not allowed to ask for additional money. A key point of the scheme is to reintroduce people to working, and help them away from begging.

You can also donate to Worcester Cares

Help people off the street by supporting those charities who can support them. A small donation makes an enormous difference. £2 would pay for a meal. £5 would provide services to get someone off the street. Donate £2 by texting WORC02 or £5 by texting WORC05 to 70070