HEATWAVES & HOMELESSNESS
5 MINUTE READ
If you’re in the UK, you'll know that the last couple of weeks have been H.O.T. We’re talking ice-cream-melting, so-much-sweating, need-aircon-ASAP kinda hot. In fact, it’s been so warm that the UK Met Office issued warnings across the country for people to take extra precautions to stay safe in the heat.
Simply put, this heatwave has been unprecedented. While for some it was welcomed with bathing suits and inflatable pools, for others it has been deadly, particularly for those impacted by homelessness.
Often when we think about homelessness we can see it as a seasonal issue that roars in the winter and hides in the summer… But homelessness does not depend on the weather forecast. And more often than not, it’s made more difficult by extreme conditions both hot and cold. Much like the winter can cause significant physical dangers for vulnerable individuals such as frostbite, hypothermia, heart attacks and more, the warmer months also present many challenges! These include heat-induced exhaustion, sunstroke, fainting, dehydration, heat cramps and so many other issues.
When you’re in a state of homelessness, you are more susceptible to these issues, and with fewer resources available to help, you’re often a lot more vulnerable to their consequences as well.
Homelessness in the heat can be vicious and simple things that we can easily take for granted on a hot day can be made worse by these conditions. Things like access to the shade or a cool place, water (and a lot of it!), sun protection cream, sun protection accessories such as hats or caps, the right foods and breathable clothing are merely a few of many things we can overlook because of how easily we can obtain them for ourselves. Many individuals experiencing homelessness, especially rough sleepers, will be unable to access most, if not all, of these things that are essential in extreme conditions.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Whichever way you look at it, the weather has a huge impact on those who are experiencing homelessness - just like it impacts those who aren’t! But for those of us who are more fortunate than others, it’s really important that we actively look out for those who can’t always look out for themselves. With another heatwave set to hit the UK soon, and with so many other parts of the world experiencing extremely warm conditions, we’ve pulled together a few very simple things you can do to help those in need.
Whatever the weather, let’s be the helping hands that make an impact!
1. Give someone a few bottles of cold water 💧
We’ve probably all experienced that horrible feeling of being dehydrated or unbelievably thirsty. It’s uncomfortable, it makes thinking difficult, it kills your energy, gives you a headache and sometimes it can even be life-threatening. Severe dehydration can cause your organs to shut down and this process is accelerated by the heat. Buying someone a few large bottles of water can provide a huge amount of relief and significantly impact their wellbeing. If you’re able to, a multi-use reusable water bottle is another great thing to give that will help in the long term and various seasons.
2. Sun caps or hats 🧢
Did you know that our scalps are usually the first thing to burn but often the last thing we think about when protecting ourselves from the sun? We all know the importance of sunscreen on our face and body to protect us from burning and even more serious things like skin cancer; however, we rarely include our scalp in this equation! But our heads need to be protected and one of the easiest ways to do this is to pop on a sun hat or a cap.
Even better, because these items are usually one-size-fits-all they’re super easy to give. If you can, keep a spare cap or two with you on a hot day and when you see someone on the streets or in a situation of homelessness, pass it on and help them protect this very vital part of their bodies!
3. Suncreams and sunscreens 🧴
Many of us have bitter-sweet childhood memories of being plastered with sunscreen from head-to-toe and looking something like a snowman-gone-wrong because our parents were pedantic about covering Every. Single. Inch. of our bodies in the stuff. BUT they may have been on to something.
Sunscreen is incredibly important in the warmer months when our skin is very susceptible to burning. For us, grabbing a tube of sunscreen is easy. But imagine not having enough money for something to eat - let alone a quality SPF. For many rough sleepers, sunburn is a real and risky problem. Next time you pop to your nearest supermarket, why not pick up some sunscreen for someone vulnerable? While it may seem like a silly thing to buy in comparison to food or water, it’ll provide skin protection that for those experiencing homelessness is often a luxury.
4. We’re a fan of fans 💨
Have you ever been close to boiling point on a hot day, with the sun beating down and the air humid and sticky, your skin leaking sweat and that feeling that you’re one degree away from your mind going mad…? But then, all of a sudden a cool, refreshing breeze comes sweeping in and rescuing you from the sauna-like conditions around you, and instantly, you feel like a new human!
Okay so that might sound a little bit dramatic BUT the fact of the matter is that a breeze can be life-changing on a hot day. Luckily for us, we have the invention of the fan ready to save us when that life-saving breeze is nowhere in sight. A classic handheld fan is a great gadget that can be helpful to individuals experiencing homelessness during hot weather.
They’re easy to carry and easy to give out, so if you can get your hands on a couple to keep them handy on a hot day, know that this small and simple invention can make a significant impact.
5. Food glorious food 🍴
There are three very basic things that humans need to survive: oxygen, water and FOOD.
Now while our oxygen and water needs stay pretty consistent, our food needs can differ from season to season. In the winter, our bodies tend to be more receptive to heavier, warmer meals but in the summer our bodies crave more easily digested, hydrating foods. Foods such as water-rich fruit and vegetables, smoothies and lighter grains are beneficial during a heatwave because they require less energy for digestion meaning your body can utilise the energy for other things. Salty, rich and fatty foods can hurt the body’s digestion during a heatwave and they can further contribute to dehydration.
If you’re looking to buy someone in need something to eat during a heatwave, opt for something that will empower their bodies to function best. If you’re stuck on what to get, think about what foods you’d feel like, which foods will provide the most nutrition and what foods won't spoil too quickly. If you’re stuck, here’s a few great things you can get:
- Coconut water
- Low sodium sandwiches