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UK heatwave: how you can help the homeless in this hot weather

Posted by
Megan Murray
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This weekend temperatures will reach 35°C, which for the homeless is incredibly dangerous. Here’s how you can help protect the homeless in the heatwave.

Homelessness tends to make news headlines more during the winter, yet heatwaves can be every bit as disastrous for those without a home, heightening the risk of dehydration, sunstroke and sunburn.  

It’s a struggle faced by over 280,000 people who are currently living on the street in Britain, and the issue only intensifies in the hot summer months. 

Being exposed to the sun’s harmful rays all day and lacking access or funds to buy water and sunscreen, means many homeless people will not only become very uncomfortable throughout the heatwave, but stand to get ill as well. Because of this we’ve looked to homeless charity Evolve House + Support’s advice for people who want to help those suffering in the heat.

The charity’s website calls on the public “to help people sleeping rough in London who could be battling severe dehydration, sunstroke, and sunburn in the days and weeks ahead.”

Debra Ives, director of operations at Evolve Housing + Support, says: “People tend to remember the homeless in the freezing winter months, but high temperatures can be even more dangerous for them. People sleeping rough are exceptionally vulnerable in the summer months, when long days and direct sun can make life unbearable and become a risk to life.

“A lot of people sleeping rough don’t have the basic items needed to survive on the streets in hot temperatures. As a result, we’re calling on the public to donate things like sun cream, water, and sun hats to help those at risk in the coming months. People can either offer them directly, or donate them to a shelter or charity.”

The charity has offered some advice with easy ways to help for anyone wondering what they can do to assist someone sleeping on the streets. Instead of giving spare change, here are some essential items you can buy and distribute:

Sunscreen

Sunburn is a very real threat to those exposed to the sun all day, and sunscreen is actually pretty expensive. Purchasing a high factor cream may help someone avoid skin damage.

A bottle of water and food

These things are always a good idea, but in the summer a bottle of water is an absolute must. Go big on the water and if possible, opt for foods with a high water content such as vegetables and fruit that are good for hydration. 

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Hats and sunglasses

Many homeless people will be out in direct line of the sun all day which makes them vulnerable to sunstroke. Buying someone a wide-brimmed hat will help keep the sun off the top of their head and face. Sunglasses are also really helpful because they protect the eyes from sun damage.

A hand-held fan

Small, battery powered hand-held fans mean a homeless person can cool down without having to find an electricity source or exerting much of their energy. This kind of fan will help bring down their body temperature which is important for avoiding sunstroke.

Baby wipes

Of course, aside from the obvious problems like dehydration and sunstroke that come with hot weather, it’s upsetting to think that a homeless person will have nowhere to keep clean in the heat. One small way we can try and help this is by distributing baby wipes to help with sanitation and avoid athlete’s foot.

Evolve also recommend the website streetlink.org.uk which enables members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them. If you see someone in need that you want to approach, go to this website and you can let the right people know where they are.

Remember: however you feel comfortable helping a rough sleeper is up to you. You can see more ways of supporting the homeless, such as volunteering and campaigning, over on St Mungo’s website here.

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Images: Getty / Tom Parsons

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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