A London council has triggered its severe weather emergency response as vulnerable rough sleepers struggle to stay safe in soaring temperatures.
It is the biggest emergency response for the homeless ever undertaken by Westminster City Council during summertime.
On Thursday the mercury hit 35C in London, making it the hottest day of the year so far. The Met Office has warned the heatwave will continue until Friday, possibly breaking the UK’s hottest ever recorded temperature.
The severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) is traditionally used by local authorities when temperatures plummet to freezing temperatures in the winter.
But this week Westminster City Council jumped into action to supply homeless people with sunscreen and bottled water, and confirmed daily clinics will also be run by health nurses to check people for signs of dehydration and heatstroke.
Accommodation will also be offered to rough sleepers in need of greater assistance during the hot weather, the council said.
The council said intervention is “vital” as people sleeping rough are especially vulnerable to the heat due to mental health issues, chronic health conditions and substance abuse problems.
“This ongoing heat wave can be dangerous for any member of the public, and rough sleepers are particularly at risk,” councillor Ian Adams, cabinet member for public protection and licensing, said.
“Our teams are out there working with people come rain or shine and as ever I would urge everyone in Westminster to help us find rough sleepers by visiting StreetLink.org.uk.”
The council said it is also working with the charity Dogs on the Street (DOTS) to ensure pets living with rough sleepers are safe in the heat.
In liaison with DOTS, pet owners and their companion animals will be offered sleeping mats, bowls, water and rehydration kits.
SWEP prompts councils to offer extra accommodation and resources to rough sleepers during extreme weather, typically when temperatures reach freezing in the winter months.
Local authorities across Britain implemented SWEP earlier this year when the Beast from the East gripped the nation.
Westminster has the highest number of rough sleepers in England, with government figures released earlier this year showing the borough had 217 sleeping on its streets.
The figure showed that the number of people sleeping rough on the streets of England had reached the highest level since current records began, with an estimated 4,751 people sleeping rough in the autumn of of 2017.