This summer has been anything but ordinary. 2023 saw one of the wettest Julys on record while 2022 saw one of the driest. This month we’re seeing higher temperatures while the rest of Europe is recovering from scorching, record-breaking heat.
The Met Office believes that this extreme and uncertain weather is the result of climate change , stating ‘climate change has already influenced the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK [this summer]’.
Constantly unpredictable weather patterns affect all of us. We’ve all been caught out on a seemingly sunny day that quickly turns into drizzle.
But what about people with no permanent access to shelter? Without the protection a home provides against the elements, people sleeping rough are put at a heightened risk of illness and, in serious cases, death.
How does climate change affect people facing homelessness?
Sleeping outside is dangerous at any time. But as temperatures become more and more unpredictable and extreme, people sleeping rough are at an increased risk of health issues and discomfort.
The rising intensity and frequency of heatwaves during summers has dangerous consequences. People sleeping rough have limited access to fresh water, sun lotion and shade .This means they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The lack of proper shelter exposes them to the elements, making them more vulnerable to extreme weather events such as heavy rains and storms.
And we’re seeing the impact – at The Connection, we’re having one of our busiest summers ever with almost 200 people visiting us on some days. This pushes our resources to the limit.
It’s also difficult to predict what weather we can expect on a weekly (or even daily!) basis. This can make it difficult and costly to prepare support for people sleeping rough. Few would have expected last month to be so cool and wet, meaning bottles of sunscreen went unused while umbrellas were sourced as quickly as possible.
Life on the streets is already full of uncertainties and climate change will only worsen this. But we will always be there for the people who need us. The question is, how?
How can we better prepare for extreme weather?
No one is expecting the homelessness sector to solve climate change itself. But all organisations should be taking steps to reduce their negative impact on the environment. We’re currently developing a strategy to bring sustainability into every aspect of our work and we will write a blog on this soon.
As for climate change’s immediate effects, we have a lot of experience in quickly adapting to the weather. For example, our centre has both fans and heaters. We also have on-site showers which are especially popular in the summer and a constant supply of coffee and tea for the winter months.
For more serious needs, we can help people to access nurses, podiatrists and more. We also have lots of staff members who are trained in first aid to deal with any emergencies.
This helps us create a safe space, both in terms of physical safety and recovery but also by providing a sense of reliability which can be hard to find when sleeping rough.
We also go out onto the streets in extreme weather to bring people inside and, if they are uncertain due to poor experiences with services in the past, we offer water, sunscreen and other essentials to make sure they are more comfortable.
This can help begin a more meaningful relationship for the future by establishing trust.
Ultimately, addressing climate change’s impact on homelessness is crucial. Homelessness services must consider the changing climate to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of people sleeping rough.
How can you make a difference?
Climate change is an alarming and large issue. But we can all take small steps to reduce its impact.
Donating to The Connection will allow us to secure the most useful resources as weather shifts. In extreme weather, your support could save lives.
Gifts in kind
We also accept donations of new and unused gifts which we list here. This can be a big help and adds a personal touch to your support.
Talk to people sleeping rough
Unfortunately, as homelessness increases, you’re more and more likely to walk past someone sleeping rough. Chatting to them or offering water, sunscreen or an umbrella can mean a lot to someone on the streets.
However you get involved, your support can carry a huge difference for someone struggling in extreme weather. It’s always appreciated and could be life-saving.