This Christmas more than 250,000 people will be sleeping rough on the streets of England.
“It’s not through choice I’m out here,” 40-year-old Shamrock tells The Huffington Post UK.
The bright-eyed Irish woman has a steely resilience in her voice shaped by 26 years of living rough.
“I’ve got Nigel,” she says with a hearty laugh as she points to the bearded man next to her.
They’ve only been sitting next to each other for the last two weeks but they share a strong bond, built on the hardships they’ve both faced while living on the streets of London.
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“It can be very difficult being female,” Shamrock explains. “I’m lucky because I’ve got Nigel with me.
“It’s always better to have a guy with you,” she adds.
Women make up one in five homeless people, according to the charity Crisis.
Of these women, 35% become homeless as a result of violence. For Shamrock, the number is more than a statistic: it’s her life story.
It can be very difficult being female...it's always better to have a guy with you
Scott, 20, has been living rough for two years.
“I’ve woken up with people trying to get into my sleeping bag touching me up.” He was forced onto the streets after his mum was sent to prison.
When asked how people can help him, he says: “The way you can help me is by talking to me, by giving me some time by not just throwing a pound coin at me.”
The way you can help me is by talking to me, by giving me some time by not just throwing a pound coin at me.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
We asked three charities for the best ways in which you can help homeless people this Christmas:
For just £22.32, you can reserve a place for a homeless person at Crisis at Christmas. This pays for three hot meals, a shower, a change of clothes, a haircut and a health check, as well as access to life-changing advice and services. Find out more here.
StreetLink is a website and mobile app that enables you to let the correct local authorities and outreach teams know when they see a rough sleeper so that people can be connected to the support services available to them. Find out more here.
Shelter’s is running a Christmas appeal, which you support by texting SHELTER to 70555 to donate £3. Find out more here.