Street Homelessness

How do charities help those who are homeless and what can we do to help?

We were recently approached by whatCharity who are a platform that helps to connect people to charitable causes by showcasing a host of charities across a wide range of different causes on their website.  They help people to find the right causes, show how their donations are used and provide a platform to contribute time, goods and funding to the charities that need them.

For the first week of November, whatCharity are shining the spotlight on homelessness in its varying forms and they were keen to hear from our Director, Vicky Fox.  They wanted to know about how different charities help the homeless and what can be done in turn to support those charities working in the fields of both family homelessness and street homelessness.

You can read the full article here which features a series of questions and answers from whatCharity to both Doorstep and The Big Issue Foundation.

Alternatively, you can read Vicky’s responses below:

Who does your charity help? What are some of the reasons for people losing their home?

We work to provide support services to homeless families. The majority of the families that we support are living in one or two rooms in hostels. Conditions can be very cramped with little privacy for family members or space for children to play.

Families can become homeless for a variety of reasons including family circumstances, illness, loss of employment, domestic violence, racial harassment and financial difficulties. Doorstep aims to assist these families by providing goods and services to make their lives more comfortable as they await a permanent housing solution.

What are the roles of the different players in our society when it comes to homelessness?

There is still a lot of stigma attached to being homeless and people often feel very embarrassed about being in that circumstance. It is important to understand that being homeless is not a choice but the end result of a set of life circumstances/events. The role of the government is to address the chronic shortage of social housing and to make the alternative of renting in the private sector within reach of those on low incomes. As well as this, the government needs to provide funding for organisations who are working to support those who are homeless. Individuals can contact charities in their area who are supporting the homeless to see how they can help.

How can individuals and companies help you to help those who are homeless?

Fundraising to help our charity and gifts in kind, of clothing and food are always welcome. You can also donate your time by volunteering. Alternatively, you can contact us to see what exactly what is needed at the time.

You hear about a family being evicted from their home, whether you are a family member, friend or colleague. You are not sure of their circumstances, but you would like to help.

This really depends on the individual circumstances. Housing is the government’s responsibility, so first port of call should be to present themselves to the local council. You also need to bear in mind that local government policy around eligibility might mean that no help will be given. It is important that anyone threatened with eviction does not leave the property before receiving an eviction notice. To leave voluntarily, before receiving an eviction notice, can mean that the local authority decides you are “intentionally homeless” and that they have no duty to you.

Donation/volunteering tips for the public

At Doorstep we receive donations of gently used clothing, toys, books, baby equipment, homeware and more from the wider community, which families attending our centre can help themselves to. You can also enquire at our centre if there are any volunteering opportunities. Many charities have had their funding reduced or as in Doorstep’s case completely withdrawn. This means that charities with limited resources are forced to spend valuable time trying to raise funds to keep their services running. Our whatCharity profile lists many ways you can support us.


To view our whatCharity profile click here

The Karen Rauch Memorial Bench

A Tribute to Karen Rauch

Many years ago a parent at the American School in London (ASL) named, Karen Rauch, joined Doorstep’s board of trustees. We had not at that time established the partnership working nor the biannual Community Service Day (CSD) with ASL. Karen was instrumental in establishing the relationship and took part in the very early CSD efforts.

Her family moved back to USA and a short time afterwards she very sadly died. That was back in 2009 and that autumn’s CSD was focused on remembering her. Many of her friends participated and a bench with an inscription dedicated to her was bought for the garden.

At this year’s autumn CSD, on October 21st, 30 volunteers beautified the garden and undertook various other tasks. The very next day one of Karen’s daughter’s appeared at my office door asking to see the garden and bench. She had heard about it and had made the journey from USA to see it. I took her to the garden and left her to have a little quiet time sitting on the bench and remembering her Mum. I told her that ASL were here the day before making the garden look beautiful and she was really touched. She intends to come back one day with her sister and I have invited them to plant something in memory of their Mum if they would like to.

Looking back over the period when Karen joined Doorstep to now it’s incredible how much she helped us to achieve in terms of growing the board and raising our profile.

This is the tribute to Karen, no less relevant today, which was included in our Annual Report for the year of 2009:

Karen joined Doorstep’s management committee in 2004, in response to an appeal for new members. The committee had become depleted and we needed new members who could bring relevant skills. Karen responded and continued to serve until June 2009.
She had worked in a Rape Crisis Centre in USA and had experience in managing volunteers. Her first piece of advice to us was to revisit our publicity materials and create a brochure which could be used to raise Doorstep’s profile.

Karen was very active in community service both through the school her daughter’s attended and through her work with St John’s Wood Women’s Group and Hampstead Women’s Group.

She networked through these associations recruiting more members to the management committee. Karen became Doorstep’s ambassador, giving talks to a variety of schools and organisations about our work. She was absolutely instrumental in developing the phenomenal practical and financial support Doorstep now receives from 5 local private schools and 2 women’s groups. This support takes many forms, the gifts for Doorstep’s children at Christmas, donations of clothing, toys, books, household goods which stock our weekly bazaars, community activities to raise funds and volunteering.

Karen undertook research on potential funders, helping to write bids. She used her considerable skills to help develop existing policies and create new ones. She held office as Company Secretary and was exemplary in her reliability in attending meetings. Karen also participated in subgroups, taking on specific pieces of work to develop Doorstep. She sought out and utilised every available opportunity to enhance, promote and bring benefit to Doorstep.

Karen was equally willing to roll up her sleeves to help with cleaning and gardening to maintain the premises. Last October I was unable to be present to facilitate the team of volunteers from American School in London, who prune, weed, plant and generally maintain our gardens twice a year. Karen didn’t hesitate to offer to take my place to work with the volunteers and her own family to ensure the work went ahead.

She left Doorstep in June of this year due to her family returning to USA. We were shocked to the core to hear the news that she had died suddenly and unexpectedly in August.
It was a true reflection of the respect and affection so many people held for Karen that this October’s gardening day became Karen Rauch Memorial Day. A total of 56 people turned out to pay tribute to her, to work the gardens and turn them into a living memorial. It is a beautiful place for children to play, a peaceful place for adults to reflect and find renewal and a very fitting reminder of all that she did. We give thanks for knowing her and will always remember her.