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Calls to remember Tower Hamlets homeless when temperatures soar

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 July 2018

A heatwave could prove just as dangerous as freezing temperatures, according to experts trying to help end rough sleeping. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

A heatwave could prove just as dangerous as freezing temperatures, according to experts trying to help end rough sleeping. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

PA Archive/PA Images

For many the summer heat is a welcome break from a long, dark winter.

Matt Downie from homeless charity Crisis. Pic: SAM MELLISHMatt Downie from homeless charity Crisis. Pic: SAM MELLISH

But for some, when temperatures soar dehydration and sunburn pose serious risks to health.

The recent heatwave has led homeless charities to call on the public to look out for people living on the streets.

In Tower Hamlets 375 rough sleepers were spotted during 2017 to 2018, according to GLA figures.

In 2017 to 2018 there were 7,484 rough sleepers in the capital overall, a decrease of eight per cent on the year before according to homless charity Crisis.

Of those sleeping rough for the first time, 54pc – 2,406 – had been in long-term accommodation including 38pc from the private rented sector, Crisis numbers show.

The number of people returning to the streets after a year off them has risen 8pc in the last year and 53pc in the last five, Crisis showed.

Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, said: “Rough sleeping is incredibly dangerous at any time of year, but as temperatures continue to soar, dehydration and heat exhaustion pose particular risks for those forced to sleep on the streets.”

He added if members of the public wanted to help, they could offer water, sun cream, hats or 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 day time, so offering to help someone to find shade could save them from severe sunburn,” Mr Downie said.

He said if anyone sees a rough sleeper, they can refer them to Streetlink​ which connects people to support and services.

“But he recommended calling 999 if there was a concern about an immediate risk to someone’s health.

“Ultimately though, no one should be facing these dangers when we know that homelessness can be ended, so we’re also asking people to join our campaign to end homelessness for good; email their local MPs asking them pledge their support to end homelessness; and help us ensure that in future, no one has to face these conditions again,” Mr Downie said.

Dr Thomas Waite from government agency Public Health England said: “We know when weather like this hits many people will head outdoors and make the most of the sunshine – but for others high temperatures can pose a significant risk to health.

“This is because their bodies may struggle to adapt to working harder, as all our bodies do when the weather gets this hot, and they can become ill.”

Charity Streets Kitchen is raising money for water and protein drinks to keep rough sleepers hydrated during this summer’s ongoing heatwave, which has seen temperatures hit 30 degrees celsius.

Streets Kitchen’s coordinator Tom Wenn said: “We know public sympathy is going to slow down when it gets warmer.

“People don’t often think of people suffering at other times of the year.”

He added a lack of public drinking fountains made the problem worse with rough sleepers reliant on people’s goodwill.

“Without public support I don’t know where they will get water from,” he said before encouraging members of the public to pick up an extra bottle for a rough sleeper when buying water.

“It should be a fundamental right to have access to clean drinking water. We take being hydrated for granted.

“Homeless people might not be able to get out of the sunshine.

“They might not be able to change into summer clothes. People may think 30p for a bottle of water is okay, but that person might be scraping it together for a bed for a night,” Mr Wenn said.

He explained how the homeless get a lot of attention in winter when it’s cold, but donations dry up in summer.

A donation of £5 pays for 83 bottles of water according to the charity.

To donate visit Streets Kitchen’s fundraising page.

Go to Streetlink to alert support groups and the council to people sleeping rough.

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