As the mercury soars to the high 30s and the people “melt” in the heat a severe weather emergency was called to support the homeless.
Last night workers in Westminster – which has the highest number of homeless people in the UK – were giving out supplies of water to rough sleepers hoping to get some respite from the heat.
The high temperatures triggered a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) in Westminster – thought to be the only council with a hot weather emergency policy.
The council spends £7m a year on support for its homeless population, more than any other area.
The SWEP is more usually declared in the depths of winter when temperatures drop to zero or below.
However as the thermometer was set to exceed 28 degrees C for three consecutive days extra help is being laid on for homeless people in Westminster.
It is the only council with a hot weather policy for supporting homeless people.
According to official figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network there were 2,500 people sleeping rough in the borough last year and the majority of them did not have a local link or orginate in Westminster.
The council spends more than any other authority on support for its homeless population, with support including 400 commissioned beds, jobs and skills training and mental health support.
Outreach teams are joining forces with the NHS Homeless Health Service along with charities the council works with, including St Mungo’s, the Connection at St Martin’s on Trafalgar Square and the Passage to give people respite from the heat and the risk of dehydration along with the debilitation of heat exhaustion and sunstroke.
Councillor Ian Adams, the cabinet member with responsibility for public protection said: “The hot weather can be just as dangerous as the cold for people living on the streets.”
He said that the council wants “to make sure some of the most vulnerable people in our society don’t suffer due to this prolonged sunny spell.”
The extra heatwave includes free water for rough sleepers and at hostel and clinic receptions, hot weather packs including oral rehydration tablets handed out at hostels ands extended opening hours at day centres so rough sleepers can get respite from the sun’s rays between 11am and 3pm.
Their canine companions will also get help from the Dogs on the Street charity which are handing out water bowls and checking dogs for signs of dehydration.
The central London borough is a hot spot for rough sleepers as it has major transport hubs including Victoria station.
This winter Westminster council provided between 220-240 emergency spaces for rough sleepers at risk during cold weather.
By LDRS reporter Julia Gregory