Councils urged to use emergency powers to help rough sleepers in hot weather

Councils have been urged to use emergency powers to protect rough sleepers as hot weather hits the UK.

Temperatures are forecast to reach 34 or 35C on Saturday in London and the east, with warm conditions spread across the country.

Minister for housing and homelessness Heather Wheeler has written to local authorities encouraging them to trigger their Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).

Activated at short notice and typically used in winter months, the SWEP can be help rough sleepers off the streets during times of severe weather.

Mrs Wheeler said: “No one should be forced to sleep on the streets – especially during a period of extreme weather.

“That’s why I have encouraged local authorities to activate the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol so we can ease the pressure on vulnerable people and help them to get the longer term support they need to get them off the streets for good.”

According to guidance produced by the charity Homeless Link, people sleeping rough in hot conditions may find it difficult to obtain drinking water and sun protection.

Rough sleepers will be at an increased risk of dehydration, sunburn and sunstroke, with their needs likely to be most urgent in daylight hours.

Examples of support could including free water and sunscreen, the provision of cool daytime spaces and links to healthcare.

The Homeless Link guidance cites the example of Haringey Council in 2018, which had no day centre provision in the borough, and its decision to open up a daytime space to provide shade, water and sun cream.

On Friday, Coventry City Council said on Twitter that it was working with the Salvation Army to provide extra refuge during the weekend’s hot weather.

Warwick District Council also tweeted that it will be activating its SWEP on Saturday.

Members of the public concerned about the welfare of a rough sleeper can use the website or app to alert local authorities.

Matt Harrison, director of StreetLink, said: “Sleeping rough is bad for people’s health at any time of year, but in this heatwave it is even more dangerous.

“We know that the public often want to help when they see someone sleeping out, but they don’t always know how.

“As well as offering instant relief, such as a cold drink, you can send an alert to StreetLink to 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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