How can the public help people on the streets?
What is the best thing to do when you see someone begging on the streets? Our advice is to:
• Offer information on services that are available to help. There are many compassionate people in Edinburgh who will speak to people on the streets and offer kindness in the form of food, hot drinks or warm clothing. Whilst this is incredibly generous and admirable, it will only help the person on that particular night, whereas linking in with the correct services at the right time can lead to moving away from the streets altogether. Often people spending time on the streets are unaware of the services that are out there. They may not have been homeless before or have come from another city. Cyrenians and Streetwork both operate services that seek to support people into accommodation and go to where people are, rather than waiting for them to seek help. We would advise that people who are concerned either pass on the details of these teams to people on the streets or alternatively contact Cyrenians (0131 475 2354) or Streetwork (0131 557 6055) directly and report their concerns.
• Buy someone food or a hot drink rather than giving money. And ask them what they'd like to eat or drink to initiate a conversation.
• Ask someone’s permission before sitting down next to them, and always be conscious of your own safety.
• Look people in the eye, even if you're not going to stop and chat.
• If you don't want to buy a Big Issue, say "No, thank you" to the seller rather than just ignoring them.
• Be aware that rough sleeping and begging are two separate issues. Not everyone who begs sleeps rough, and not everyone who sleeps rough begs.
It is important to realise that for some people moving away from the streets may take time. There are many complex reasons as to why people find themselves on the street that may not be resolved by being offered a place to sleep that night. For that reason Cyrenians takes a relationship based approach to support; building trust in order to journey with the person away from homelessness and towards a better future.