As the weather gets colder and winter sets in, we know a lot of our readers are concerned about how to help the homeless people in Dorset.

Ask yourself first, does the person need emergency help?

1. If the person in question is under age or is sleeping rough with a child in their care, this is a matter to refer to the police immediately as local authorities have a legal obligation to provide shelter to children.

2. If the person is in need of urgent medical attention – for example, if they have an open wound or appear to be seriously ill – calling 999 for an ambulance will get them professional help quickly.

3. Another immediate concern, especially in cold conditions, is where the person is set to spend the next few hours.

Check if there are any night shelters open nearby that could offer a safe, warm sleeping areas.

Will they be outside in sub-zero temperatures?

During extremely cold weather – specifically, when temperatures fall to zero degrees or lower for three days – special measures come into action with the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).

When this comes into force, the local authority and other organisations in the area will work to offer extra temporary accommodation where possible.

Read more about that here

Bournemouth Echo: Homeless people sleeping rough in Bournemouth town centre. ..

How do I get them help?

Assuming none of the above applies, and no immediate shelter is available, another option available is StreetLink – a service that centralises reporting of rough sleepers.

A call or online referral to StreetLink will, where appropriate, be passed to the relevant local services – usually local authority outreach teams who operate at night.

Each council’s team has a different timetable dependent on demand, but they typically aim to reach a rough sleeper in one-to-three nights and offer support.

Sending an alert about a rough sleeper when SWEP provision is in place will ensure local services are aware of the individual and can refer them to this emergency accommodation.

Due to a high volume of calls when the weather is bad, StreetLink advises the best method to refer rough sleepers is via the website or app.

You can find out more by clicking here

Alternatively, you can contact the Bournemouth and Poole Rough Sleepers Team by phone - 01202 315962 or emailb& 

If leaving a message, please leave as much detail as possible. The team deliver an outreach service so are not always in the office.

What information do I need to give?

As much information as possible is needed to locate a rough sleeper.

One of the most important things is their night-time sleep location.

This is absolutely key in many cases, as this is when most outreach teams operate. If you have this information, be as precise as possible.

The form also asks for:

  • The name / nickname of the person
  • If they're male or female
  • Their approximate age
  • A description
  • Where and when you saw them

You don't have to give the council your own details but it might be helpful if they need to contact you for more information.

Bournemouth Echo: A homeless person in a doorway on Albert Road, Bournemouth

Should I give my own money?

Many have different views and feelings about giving money to people they meet on the street, and there isn’t any right answer to this issue.

Some feel more comfortable donating to housing or homelessness charities to help tackle the issue.

However, if you are unable to help in any other way, there’s certainly no harm in offering someone a warm drink, some food or a blanket – or even just someone to talk to for a while.


  • As reported in this paper previously, local homelessness organisations have come together to provide regularly updated information at This online service not only allows those in need to find help, but also shows others where they can give help.