Explainer: What to do if you see someone sleeping rough?

People sleeping rough on the streets are the most visible form of homelessness and one most people are familiar with.

Many people wonder what they can do to help someone who is sleeping out. People sleeping rough are the same as anyone else and may be homeless for a variety of reasons.

Anyone can fall into homelessness and many people currently experiencing homeless would never have imagined that they could ever end up in such a frightening and traumatic situation. People come from all walks of life, each with unique stories that have resulted in their homelessness.

Support Someone Sleeping Rough

There’s no one right way to respond if you see someone sleeping rough, but there are some practical things you can do to help. First and foremost, remember people who are sleeping rough are regular people experiencing a traumatic situation, so if you’d like to, introduce yourself, and ask if you can be of assistance.
If you’d like to provide food or water for someone sleeping rough – just check with them first.

Often people who are experiencing homelessness are aware of and are linked in with homelessness services, though options, including suitable rooming houses or crisis accommodation, are scarce and might be inappropriate for the person.

If the rough sleepers are in the areas of Stonnington, Port Phillip, Frankston, Dandenong and City of Melbourne you can call the Rough Sleeper’s Initiative on 8598 1170.

If they are in the areas of City of Yarra, Moreland or Darebin you can contact the Assertive Outreach team at Launch Housing Collingwood on 9288 9611.

In other areas, you can find out who the local housing access point is by calling Opening Doors on 1800 825 555. This is a free call number that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your call will be answered by a worker who can put you in touch with an organisation closest to you.

Importantly, if the person requires emergency medical attention please call an ambulance.

How Does Launch Housing Help People Sleeping Rough?

Launch housing has two great programs working with people who are sleeping rough. The Melbourne Street to Home program provides coordinated housing, support services and health intervention targeted at Melbourne’s most vulnerable rough sleepers.

The Rough Sleepers Initiative works with people who are sleeping rough within the council areas of Melbourne, Stonnington, Port Phillip, Yarra, Frankston and Dandenong. The program aims to ensure a responsive, immediate service connecting rough sleepers to accommodation (crisis and long-term) and health services, as well as reconnecting them to pre-existing support or establishing new supports.

Learn why rough sleeping is just the tip of the iceberg.