Looking out for rough sleepers in hot weather

Rough sleeper summer

As the heatwave of 2018 returns over the coming days, the council is stepping up efforts to ensure that those sleeping rough in Tower Hamlets are not left to fend for themselves. 

Much like in periods of extreme cold, the intense heat triggers a response from the council and its partners.

After a cooler weekend, the heat of the past few weeks is set to return in the coming days and as of this morning (2 August), the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) has been activated.

It will remain in place until next Wednesday (8 August). It is the second time in the past two weeks that the SWEP has been rolled out.

What are we doing to help? 

Working with partner agencies, the protocol allows emergency space to be made available for those who would otherwise be out on the streets.

Staff are deployed on additional street shifts to ensure everyone identified as rough sleeping has a regular welfare visit.

These agreed steps compliment the everyday work already underway to provide an enhanced response on the street. 

The Tower Hamlets Street Outreach Response Teams have been out and about since the start of the summer handing out sunscreen and water not only to rough sleepers, but also to their pets. 

The teams are providing advice and information on how to take care of themselves in hot temperatures (how to keep out of the heat and how to keep themselves cool). They also leave written information where appropriate.

While they are already specialists in their field, the outreach teams have been provided with specific additional information on how to identify heat exhaustion and heat stroke. They have also been given guidance on how to support an individual who they believe have suffered heatstroke, while they wait for an ambulance to attend. 

The day centres and hostels commissioned by the council have also been given information about the increased need for caution around heat-related illness. They are putting special measures in place including extra water bottles, encouraging clients to wear cool clothes , take cool showers and keep wet towels handy.

What can you do to help?

Consider providing water, rather than money. 

If you strike up a conversation with a rough sleeper, gently remind them to keep moving to stay out of the sun. 

As ever, if you think someone is seriously unwell and needs medical attention, call 111 to seek advice. 

The emergency services are particularly busy in the hot weather, only call 999 in a genuine emergency.

Always consider your own safety. Some of our rough sleepers are dealing with multiple complex challenges relating to addiction and mental health and may not always react the way you would expect to well-meaning offers of help.

Posted on Thursday 2nd August 2018