How You Can Help Homeless People During A Heatwave

Photographed by Gerard Ferry.
The current heatwave affecting much of the UK has left many of us feeling hot and bothered, but spare a thought for the people living on the streets with no respite from the heat.
Passersby tend to pay more attention to homeless people during the cold winter months than in the summer, but any extreme weather conditions can pose problems for those sleeping rough. With a heatwave comes the risk of serious dehydration, sunstroke and sunburn.
There are more than 9,000 people recorded as rough sleepers in England, and the number of homeless people recorded dying on the streets has doubled in the last five years, so it's no wonder homeless charities are calling on people to help them during our current heatwave, which is expected to last another two weeks. Here are some simple ways you can help someone living on the streets this summer.
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Buy them crucial supplies

You can donate certain items either directly to someone sleeping rough or to a homeless shelter or charity, says London homelessness charity Evolve. These include:
• Bottled water and food for hydration.
• Sun cream to reduce the risk of skin damage.
• Hats and sunglasses to prevent sunstroke and eye damage.
• Handheld fans to lower body temperature and prevent heatstroke.
• Baby wipes for sanitation and avoiding athlete’s foot.
"A lot of people sleeping rough don’t have the basic items needed to survive on the streets in hot temperatures," says Debra Ives, the charity's director of operations. "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."
Matt Downie, head of policy and external affairs at Crisis, also recommends donating spare umbrellas. "People living on the streets may spend nights on the move in order to stay safe, which means they often sleep during the daytime, so offering to help someone to find shade could save them from severe sunburn," he told Refinery29.

Put them directly in touch with a charity

If the person sleeping rough is under 25 years old, you can connect them to the Centrepoint Helpline, a freephone number on 0808 800 0661, recommends Paul Noblet, the charity's head of public affairs. "People experiencing homelessness are exceptionally vulnerable to extremes of weather. The most important thing is to get young people on the street to safety," he told Refinery29, adding that water, sun cream or umbrellas for shade can help reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration in the short term.
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If the person is over 25, refer them to StreetLink, a website, app and telephone service that can connect rough sleepers in England and Wales to local accommodation and support services; or to Shelter's free helpline (0808 800 4444 or 0808 1644 660 if it's urgent), online support or local services.
You can also help them find short-term solace and shade at a day centre or in emergency accommodation supplied by the local council, says the homeless charity Shelter.

Tell a charity where to find them

Alternatively, you can alert a charity to the person's presence on the street if you consistently spot them in the same place. As well as putting rough sleepers in touch with local services, StreetLink lets people send an alert when they're concerned about someone sleeping rough. Let the service know the person's location, appearance and time they were seen, and these details are sent to the correct local homelessness outreach team.
"We know that the public often want to help when they see someone sleeping out, but they don’t always know how," says 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."
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