Homelessness is one of the biggest problems facing Ireland’s people today. There are over 10,000 people sleeping rough across the nation, including over 3,000 children. This is a humanitarian crisis, and with the winter just on the horizon, we’re all looking for ways we can help in any way. With that in mind, we’re going to look at a few ways you can support the homeless crisis in Ireland throughout the winter.

Let’s get started.

  1. Charities

Let’s start with one of the obvious choices: donating to homeless charities. In fact, Ireland gives more money per capita to homeless charities than any other country in the world, with the median amount being around €30. Charities have been under more and more scrutiny in recent years, and fewer people trust them, but the fact is that the good charities are the best way to get immediate support to the homeless.

The role of charity should be to alleviate suffering to the greatest extent possible, while the state works on long term solutions to the problems. So, giving to charities is one of the best ways to support the homeless this winter.

  • Speak to local politicians

With that said, I’ve tried to emphasise the view that charities should be there to support people off the streets and into temporary support. In the meantime, the state and your local council should be working on solutions to end the problem of homelessness. So, one of the best ways you can support the homeless in the long term is by lobbying with your local politicians.

Call your local councillors and any elected official as well as sending letters and emails to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness. Ask for direct solutions from them and push them to support the most radical and transformative policies needed to truly put an end to the problem.

Our elected officials are the ones with the real power to put an end to this problem.

  • Essentials donations

Donations shouldn’t stop with cash donations. Often, it’s actually far more helpful to donate items that can be used by homeless shelters. Anything can be helpful—clothes are perhaps the most important thing you can donate, especially cold weather clothes like coats and jumpers. Other things like blankets, toiletries, food, toys for children and anything you think might be helpful.

Charities and shelters are always looking for donations like this, and we all know we could stand to reduce a bit of the clutter in our houses.

  • Have respect

Finally, an important thing you can remember when thinking about how to help the homeless is just to have respect for the homeless as human beings. It can be easy to become desensitized when the problem is as common as it is, and certain dehumanising attitudes can start to take hold.

Rejecting such attitudes as immoral is a key step in the overall fight against homelessness, as we reduce stigma and build a fairer view of homelessness. Addressing the real, root causes of the issue is a really important step to ending homelessness, and that starts with how we all treat the homeless.

The most important thing to do is remember that it is a person you are talking about. Respect, care and empathy are the best things you can do to begin with. Then, it’s about doing everything you can to improve their material conditions in the short term, through mutual aid, and in the long term through lobbying with your local politicians. It’s a big challenge, but it’s got to be overcome.