For many of us, heatwaves are bitter sweet; the bitter synonymous with climate change, the sweet with the tinkle of ice cream vans and the soft sizzle of barbecued kebabs.
Of course, we Brits undermine the actual bitter with a good moan about being unable to keep cool, but this shared, sweaty grumpiness is, mostly superficial.
It’s easy to forget the sweet enjoyment of blistering temperatures is a privilege denied to those without appropriate shelter; with heatwaves bringing dangerous, and potentially fatal, consequences for the nation’s homeless population.
Much has been written about how deadly snow and ice can be for homeless individuals. We have all read about living, breathing human beings freezing to death on streets strewn with fairy lights for Christmas shoppers.
However, there is not nearly as much awareness of the perils facing those sleeping rough while enduring heatwaves; with thousands left vulnerable to dehydration, heat exhaustion and severe sunburn.
NHS guidelines state people should try and drink six to eight glasses of water when it’s, but for the homeless accessing water is far from simple.
Homeless shelters are therefore encouraging people to give food and water to homeless people this summer, as well as practical sun protection items such as sun cream, sun hats and sun glasses.
As we face another heatwave think of those who are homeless and buy them a bottle of water if you can. That, some human interaction, and a few kind words will really lift their day. This is Charlie (also known as Brian) in Soho, taken as part of the Outsiders project. pic.twitter.com/dvyzuYVeZm
— Davenant (@SirWilliamD) July 23, 2019
UNILAD spoke with Risha Lancaster, from Coffee4Craig, an organisation which provides vital services for homeless people in the Manchester area.
Lancaster told UNILAD how the demand for water has escalated in accordance with the recent soaring temperatures:
Due to the hot weather we are currently experiencing it is vitally important we ensure that people experiencing homelessness are able to access fresh drinking water.
Unfortunately, Manchester does not provide drinking fountains in and around the city. Although there are many services people can access water via, they are not available 24 hours a day.
The services would be grateful if you could donate bottles of water suntan lotion and after sun to enable us to pass this on to our guests.
If you are passing a shop buy a couple of bottles of water and pass them on to someone who may need them. It is not always possible to attain fresh water and we need to ensure people are able to keep hydrated.
— The Bridge (@TheBridgeEM) July 23, 2019
Crisis Chief Executive, Jon Sparkes, has given the following statement to UNILAD:
Rough sleeping is incredibly dangerous at any time of year, but heatwaves can expose people to a number of risks including dehydration, sunburn and heat exhaustion.
Members of the public can help by offering water, sun cream or spare umbrellas. People living on the streets often spend their nights on the move to stay safe and sleep during the daytime, putting them at risk of severe sunburn, so offering to help find shade can also make all the difference.
If you’re in England or Wales you can also refer rough sleepers to Streetlink, who connect people to local support and services. However, if someone needs urgent medical attention you should call 999 immediately.
To my friends in the city, offer a water bottle to the homeless in passing during this heat wave, if you can. Stay hydrated.
— Alexis Nicole (@alexisfosterr) July 18, 2019
According to Sparkes:
Ultimately, no one should be forced to live like this 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 the future, no one has to face these inhumane conditions again.
According to data released earlier this year by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), there has been a 165 per cent increase in the number of rough sleepers since 2010.
It’s beyond horrifying that the UK – a supposedly affluent country – is facing homelessness on such a staggering scale, and change needs to be made at the root. But on an everyday level, we can all keep an eye out for one another.
I know what it’s like when you’re busy and you’re rushing to the beer garden after a long, sweltering day at work.
It’s easy to push down uncomfortable feelings of guilt or sympathy as we look forward to conversation with friends over a cold pint. However, morality is a compulsion ingrained in humanity and we’d do well to indulge it more often.
Most of us – no matter how skint we might feel – can afford to purchase a bottle of water for the homeless person sitting on the street outside. Many of us can comfortably donate a bit of sun cream to our local homeless shelter.
Furthermore, we can all use our voices to demand change. A new Prime Minister is due to move into 10 Downing Street without, now is time for UK residents to make it clear we won’t stand for the appalling scale of homelessness in our country. Change isn’t just a fleeting desire, it is a demand.
You can find out more about Crisis’ campaign here
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.