30/01/2014 07:51 GMT | Updated 31/03/2014 06:59 BST

London's Neglected Homeless People


London is one of the world's most beautiful cities and one of the most exhilarating places to live in. I was returning home from my International politics seminar, and decided to have a hot chocolate in Costa before taking a train to North London. While in queue with my cheese and mushroom toastie, a homeless man walked in and asked the barista for a cup of tea. She refused and the elderly man responded by saying "It's freezing outside, please I just want a cup of tea". It was a heartbreaking scene and the cold-hearted response from the barista was unexpected. Could giving a homeless person a cup of tea make a huge difference to the beverage giant or the Costa branch? Before I could say anything, a gentleman before me told the homeless man "It's on me, order whatever you want". The generosity of the man restored my faith in humanity. I understand that the shop did not want to set a precedent for homeless people to walk in and ask for a cup of tea but perhaps an exception could be made on that dreary and freezing evening.

This was not my first encounter with a homeless person. Recently while grocery shopping in Camden, a homeless man's placard read "Stop please and have a read, I am not a bad person, I just need your help please. Please help us" and concluded his message with "We also say no to drugs and alcohol and evil people". London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. An estimated 185,000 a year are affected by homelessness and according to a recently published report the number of homeless people in England has risen for 3 years in a row. According to the report one in 10 people could experience homelessness at one point in their life, with one in 50 having experienced it in the last five years.

Pointing the finger at governmental cuts, and shortages is not going to solve the current problem in the short term. According to Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, the causes of homelessness varies. For men it is often "relationship breakdown, substance misuse and leaving an institution". For women, some of the common causes are "physical or mental health problems and escaping a violent relationship". The best approach, at least in my opinion is to have a proactive approach to help those homeless take control of their lives and be able to afford housing, develop skills which they can use to become employed and so on.

There are many things you can do to help make an impact. Too often people want to volunteer and be part of a life-changing initiative. They presume that to help others, and make a difference in the world they must travel abroad. Consequently they neglect those in need of dire help within their constituents. Below are three things you could do that might make a difference in the life of a homeless person.