July 19, 2022 12.03 pm

Homeless in a heatwave: How you can help people in need

Two councils have called for emergency weather protocols

It is often the cold winters that hit the homeless hardest, but as the country enters an unprecedented heatwave it is now the scorching summers having an effect.

We are in the midst of a heatwave unlike anything seen in this country for generations, with the Met Office issuing a red weather warning for heat between Monday and Tuesday for the first time since records began.

Temperatures are expected to hit around 40°C on Tuesday, breaking the country’s previous heat record of 38.7°C. We have all complained about how hot it is, but there’s one community exposed to it more than most – rough sleepers.

Near 40 degree temperatures can cause dehydration and heat stroke, prompting the Met Office’s red weather warning – which translates to there being a danger to life, not just for vulnerable people.

Homeless people are exposed to the elements at all times, struggling to find shelter from the blazing sunshine which means they are most at risk to the dangerous effects of extreme weather.

In Lincolnshire, West Lindsey District Council has activated the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol, which is triggered usually by severe cold weather that poses a risk to the health of rough sleepers – but it’s the heat that has brought it out this time.

Under this protocol, the council will offer accommodation to homeless people, with rough sleepers staying there until the severe weather ends, or they have found other suitable accommodation.

South Kesteven District Council has also taken this action, and City of Lincoln Council says it implemented an SWEP weeks ago, but other local authorities across Greater Lincolnshire have not yet publicly announced this.

How to help

The best way to directly assist with a homeless person during this hot weather is to offer them a bottle of water or suncream if you have it or can.

YMCA Lincolnshire are currently welcoming donations of suncream, hats, glasses and shorts to help people cope with the heat outside, as well as suggesting the importance of keeping hydrated in hot weather.

The Nomad Centre on St Rumbold’s Street in Lincoln is the only direct-access night shelter in Lincolnshire, and it is available for people experiencing homelessness so they can cool down inside, refresh themselves with a cold drink and also a shower.

Caroline Killeavy, CEO at YMCA Lincolnshire, told The Lincolnite: “It’s important we look out for people who have no permanent home to shelter from the heat.

“People living in temporary accommodation often don’t have access to a garden, so will either spend this heatwave inside or on the street.

“It’s never been more important to check on people who might be looking unwell or at-risk on our streets.”

Cllr Donald Nannestad, Portfolio Holder for Quality Housing at City of Lincoln Council, said: “The SWEP (severe weather emergency protocol) was triggered in Lincoln two weeks ago. Partners such as Project Compass are offering access to shade and shelter and the city council is conducting regular checks on Lincoln’s homeless population and providing them with bottled water and sunscreen while also directing them to our partners for further assistance.

“The number of those sleeping rough in the city are currently quite low (between 4 and 8) and we are supporting those willing to engage with us to gain accommodation, income, healthcare, and professional appointments.

“If the public would like to assist directly, we would welcome donations of sun hats and sun cream. These can be dropped in at the reception of City Hall during office hours.”

National homelessness charity Shelter has also offered advice for rough sleepers during the extreme weather, which you can read in full on the charity’s website here.

Advice states that your local council “must give you emergency housing” if they think you are in priority need or vulnerable, and meet immigration conditions.

If you are sleeping rough or know somebody who is, you can contact StreetLink via their website, who will put you in touch with any local services in your area.