Now that winter is upon us, with snow cloaking large parts of the north of the UK and even a flurry seen in London, spare a thought for the thousands of people who sleep rough across the country each night.

In 2016, on any given night in England, 4,134 people slept rough - a 16% increase on the previous year and more than double the number in 2010.

59,090 households in England were accepted as homeless in 2016, but these people are usually in temporary accommodation, hostels, B&Bs or perhaps staying on the floors and sofas of friends and family.

As St Mungo's Homeless Charity puts it: "Homelessness is an emergency all year round, but in winter and cold weather people can be in even greater danger."

This is especially true in the anticipated unsettled weather conditions this December, with more snow likely on higher ground in the north.

Here are five ways you can help homeless people, but especially rough sleepers, who may suffer in the cold this winter.

1. Donate

Numerous charities will use your donations with great urgency to reduce the suffering of homeless people throughout winter by getting them into shelters or providing them with meals. Shelter, St Mungo's and Crisis are all reputable charities aiming to end homelessness.

2. Volunteer at your local winter shelter

Many areas open a homeless shelter during the winter months, usually between November and March. These shelters offer basic emergency accommodation and food for free. Find a list of shelters here.

3. Send an alert to StreetLink

Anyone who is concerned about a rough sleeper can send an alert to StreetLink, which will send the details to the relevant local authority or outreach service and get them the support they need. You can receive an update on what happened as a result of your alert within 10 working days if you request it. Find out more here.

4. Buy or create a winter essentials pack

People of the Streets sells "keep warm" packs for £20 which they will send to a shelter in Manchester, Brighton or Nottingham on your behalf. The pack contains gloves, a hat, a neck warmer, and thermal socks. The charity also sells "keep dry" packs for £50; these contain an umbrella, a coat and a waterproof backpack. You can get the packs here.

Other people are putting together similar winter packs, with warm clothes plus food and toiletries. You can donate to a fundraising appeal for a woman who is creating packs with the basic essentials here, or donate a rucksack full of essentials you have put together yourself to your nearest The Rucksack Project, which has spread across the country.

5. Stop and ask a homeless person what they need

Sometimes nothing beats the personal touch. Crisis recommends that, if you see a rough sleeper, it can make a huge difference if you just stop to have a chat and offer to buy them a cup of tea.

Homeless man on Millennium Bridge
A man donates money to a homeless person with a dog on Millennium Bridge, London. Tom Parsons on Unsplash