Temperatures are soaring this week in the UK — with weather reports predicting highs of up to 38 degrees C in London on Thursday.
But while the rest of us can politely complain as air conditioning breezes through our locks like Beyoncé’s wind machine, a heatwave can make life far harder for people without a home — and unbearable for those sleeping rough.
More than 300,000 people in Britain are homeless or living in inadequate housing — and 4,751 slept rough in England in 2017, the highest number since records began. Since 2010, there has been a 169% increase in the number of people sleeping rough in England, and in big cities like London, a rough sleeper dies every two weeks.
The heatwave brings with it dehydration, sunstroke, and sunburn — and experts have called on the public to help. Here’s a few ways you can get involved right away.
1. Buy suncream
Sunburn can cause skin damage and sunstroke, but it’s easy to help: Just buy some extra suncream and share it round.
Baby wipes are also a great way to provide sanitation and keep people free of athlete's foot. But be responsible): Wet wipes cause fatbergs when they get flushed down loos, and could even be banned in the UK soon as result.
2. Donate your old umbrellas
There’s a reason why Rihanna’s Umbrella was released in the UK as summer started in 2007: It's a simple way to keep people cool. But don’t take it from us — listen to the guy who heads up policy and external affairs at UK homelessness charity Crisis.
"People living on the streets may spend nights on the move in order to stay safe,” said Matt Downie in an interview with Refinery29. “Which means they often sleep during the daytime, so offering to help someone to find shade could save them from severe sunburn.”
Check your wardrobe, too. Other products that can seriously help include hats, sunglasses, and handheld battery-powered fans to lower body temperature.
3. Make sure they have enough water
Dehydration is a big problem, and a cold drink can go a long way.
Bottled water can fend off the sweltering heat — and if you can spare a reusable container, it’ll help cut down on plastic, too.
“Rough sleeping is incredibly dangerous all year round”, said Jon Sparkes, Crisis’ CEO, to Metro. “But during heat waves like the one we’re having now, dehydration and heat exhaustion put people with nowhere to turn at even greater risk.”
And if you’re buying yourself some lunch, donate some extra food — either to somebody sleeping rough, a charity, or a homeless shelter.
4. Connect them to a charity
If you see a person sleeping rough in the sun, often the best thing you can do is let somebody else help.
If they’re under 25, call the Centrepoint helpline for free on 0808 800 0661 — and if they’re over 25, call Shelter for free on 0808 800 4444 (or 0808 1644 660 if it's urgent). Alternatively, connect them to Streetlink, a website and app that will hook them up with local accommodation and support services in England and Wales.
Hot weather is just as bad for people sleeping rough as when it is freezing cold! Please contact https://t.co/GHb8gNJR1U to help us connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them #endroughsleepingpic.twitter.com/LhBgu7C9i9— Street_Link (@Tell_StreetLink) June 23, 2018
Any information is useful: where and when you saw them, what they looked like, and any concerns you might have. Charity outreach workers will do the rest.
"We know that the public often want to help when they see someone sleeping out, but they don’t always know how," said Matt Harrison, director of StreetLink. "As well as offering instant relief, such as a cold drink, sending an alert to StreetLink will link the person up with local support and accommodation services that will work with them to help them off the streets for good."
5. Help them find shelter
Sometimes the best way to fight the sun is just to get away from it.
Day centres can provide food, drink, clothes, and shelter, or the council can help set up emergency housing, including a hostel, flat, or bed and breakfast. Homeless Link can help access local services in England; all you need is a postcode to find out what’s close.
Don’t forget that you’re more likely to have internet access — and even the use of your phone to see what’s available in the area could be the difference between accommodation or nothing.
If you’re basking in the sunshine this weekend, don’t forget the warmer weather can be a risk for people who are #homeless on the streets.— Shelter (@Shelter) June 30, 2018
Watch and share our video to find out how you can help. pic.twitter.com/MlvnIqn1yf