This year’s warm summer has made everyday tasks – sleeping, commuting, generally existing – more difficult and unpleasant for all of us.
But the problems are far worse for Britain’s homeless population.
Around 300,000 people are currently living on the streets, and with temperatures regularly reaching over 25C in parts of the country, their health is at risk.
Debra Ives, Director of Operations at Evolve Housing + Support, says: ‘A lot of people sleeping rough don’t have the basic items needed to survive on the streets in hot temperatures.
‘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.’
Here are all the things you can do to help homeless people during the summer:
Buy them water and food
Water is obviously extremely important during hot weather, but bottled water is expensive for homeless people who also need money for food and shelter. The bigger the bottle you can buy them, the better. A two-litre bottle they can then fill up from public taps or cafés would be perfect. Foods with high water content are also good – fruit and vegetables will help keep people hydrated as well as fuelled.
Buy them sunscreen
Many homeless people will be stuck outdoors all day, and are therefore at very high risk of sunburn, which is not only very painful but damaging to your long-term health. It will be too expensive for many homeless people to buy, so providing someone with a high-factor lotion would be extremely helpful.
Help them find a shady spot
Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis homeless charity told i: ‘People living on the streets may spend nights on the move in order to stay safe, which means they often sleep during the day time, so offering to help someone to find shade could save them from severe sunburn.’
Buy them hats and sunglasses
Even cheap sunglasses will help protect from harmful UV rays, and a hat will also help keep them cool during the baking afternoon heat. Give them a spare umbrella If you happen to have a spare umbrella handy – or can buy one from a nearby shop – this is a great way to give a homeless person some much-needed shade without them having to traipse around with all their belongings to find the right spot.
Buy them a handheld battery-powered fan
A handheld fan is an absolute godsend for anyone in this heat, but for a homeless person it could be the difference getting through the day or collapsing with heatstroke. You can buy them on Amazon for as little as £9.
Buy them baby wipes
It’s the kind of weather that requires two showers a day for a lot of us to feel comfortable, but many homeless people don’t have access to any cleaning facilities at all. Baby wipes won’t save their life, but it will help them feel more at ease.
Give them money
If you can’t get hold of any of these things, all the spare change you can give will help people stock up on the food, water and other essentials they need.
Refer them to Streetlink if you think they’re in danger
Streetlink is a way to connect rough sleepers with local services who can support them. If you are concerned about a homeless person’s wellbeing you can use their website to alert authorities and get them help – however, it’s best to discuss this with the person first. Mr Downie says: ‘If you are particularly concerned about immediate risks to someone’s health, you should call 999.’