How to help people sleeping rough in heatwaves

David, lead manager at our Hackney Street Outreach Team, explains how we’re helping people sleeping rough in heatwaves, and what you can do to help

How to help people sleeping rough in heatwaves

As temperatures in London hit record levels this week, a lot of the advice being issued on how to handle extreme heat tends to assume that everyone has a home. There’s very little advice on how to help people sleeping rough in heatwaves. Hot weather can be very difficult to deal with for people who are vulnerably housed or sleeping rough, and can often prove dangerous.

Staying safe in extremely hot conditions is much harder if you don’t have access to cooler spaces, or somewhere to wash yourself. People experiencing homelessness are also much more likely to have poor physical and mental health, which often exacerbates the likeliness and severity of heat-related illnesses. These can include minor symptoms, such as headaches and dizziness, though in severe cases, a person may become unconscious or have a seizure.

How we’re helping in Hackney

At Hackney Street Outreach Team, we work with people who are sleeping rough in the London Borough of Hackney, or who have a recent history of sleeping rough. We’ve been working with our clients through recent bouts of extreme heat to try and ensure their safety.

We work to support our clients into sustainable accommodation as quickly as possible all year round. The best help for people sleeping rough in any weather is to get them safely indoors. Sometimes, it isn’t possible to make this happen as quickly as we would like. For our clients who continue to sleep rough, we’ve been sending out additional shifts offering advice on staying cool, including directions to nearby water fountains and cool spaces. We also offer water, sun cream, and weather-appropriate clothing.

Working in partnership

In Hackney, we’ve been working closely with our local partners to try and ensure that there is appropriate hot weather support for all residents.

These partners include the East London Turnaround Hub, who have agreed to open their showers for our clients, and also with Hackney’s public health team, putting into practice advice on spotting the signs of heat-related illness, and identifying clients at greater risk. They have also set up hot weather stations across the borough, where vulnerable residents can access shade, sun cream, and water, and we’ve been making sure our clients are aware of this offer.

How you can help

There are lots of ways that the public can help people sleeping rough in heatwaves. If you see someone in the street who you are concerned about because they appear to be homeless, you can ask them if they would like water or a drink with electrolytes. Anything chilled or frozen can be worth offering too, as it reduces our core body temperature. A sun hat or sun cream can also help with minimising risks caused by the sun, such as heat stroke. Finally, you can refer anyone you see rough sleeping to Streetlink, so that an outreach team can support them, and make them an offer of accommodation.