How to help homeless people in hot weather

Published: Tuesday, 3rd July 2018

High day and night time temperatures are forecast to continue throughout this week, and the Met Office has issued a level 3 Heatwave Action alert for Oxfordshire.

Heatwaves can affect anyone, but rough sleepers are at particular risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion, heatstroke and sunburn. Oxford City Council is issuing the following advice for people who want to help rough sleepers during the heatwave:

Report a rough sleeper

If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough, please contact Oxford Street Population Outreach Team (OxSPOT). We commission St Mungo’s to provide this service.

OxSPOT’s role is to assess rough sleepers and help them access emergency accommodation and support services.

To give details about a rough sleeper, including their location, you can contact OxSPOT on 01865 243229 or by email at [email protected]. OxSPOT is not an emergency service, but all calls and emails will be followed up as soon as possible.

You can also report a rough sleeper through the national www.streetlink.org.uk  website or call StreetLink on 0300 500 0914.

If you believe a rough sleeper’s health is in immediate danger, please call 999.

Day services

Rough sleepers can avoid the sun and get food, showers and shade at day services.

We fund more than 100 hours a week in day services, which are provided by Homeless Oxfordshire, The Porch Day Centre and The Gatehouse.

Homeless Oxfordshire provides day services from its O’Hanlon House hostel in Luther Street from 9 am to 3:30 pm every day. O’Hanlon House provides shower and laundry facilities, and two meals a day. These are available to any rough sleeper who has been verified by OxSPOT. Users of day services can also access services provided to hostel residents, including training, education and activities as part of the Step Up project.

The Porch Day Centre in Magdalen Road provides day long support for homeless and vulnerably housed people six days a week. Its services include two cheap hot meals a day, shower and laundry facilities, clothing, and a range of activities including ICT training and allotment work.

The Gatehouse is at 10 Woodstock Road, and provides a drop-in café for homeless and vulnerably housed people six days a week. It also offers free internet access, a clothes store and art, literacy and computer activities groups.

The best way to help rough sleepers is to get them to come inside, where they can engage with services and get the support they need to help them off the streets.

If you would like to give items like water, sunscreen, sunglasses or hats to rough sleepers during the heatwave, we would encourage you to donate these to Homeless Oxfordshire, The Porch Day Centre and The Gatehouse rather than directly to individuals on the street.

Water

OxSPOT is providing water and cups to people on the streets during its daily rounds, and water is also available to rough sleepers at day services.

As part of its campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles, Refill Oxford has set up a network of refill stations throughout the city – where people can refill water bottles for free rather than buying a new one.

So far, around 50 businesses and organisations have signed up to the Refill scheme in Oxford. These include Turl Street Kitchen, Yellow Submarine, The Victoria Arms, Town Hall Café, Costa, Starbucks, The Folly, Weatherspoons, Neal’s Yard and John Lewis.

Participating organisations and businesses display a Refill sticker in their windows. You can find a full list of Refill stations by downloading the Refill app.

If you would like to sign up to the Refill network, you can do this through the app or by emailing [email protected].

Councillor Linda Smith, Deputy Leader and Board Member for Leisure and Housing, said: “Just a few months ago, we had the worst severe winter weather in years, and now we are in the middle of a prolonged heatwave. Rough sleepers are especially vulnerable to extreme weather, and the best way to help them is to get them to come inside and engage with support services to help them off the streets.

“If you are concerned about someone on the streets during this heatwave, please report them to OxSPOT or StreetLink. You can also help by donating to or volunteering with the day services which provide water, food, showers and shade to rough sleepers.”  

Oxfordshire County Council’s public health team has issued general advice about coping with current heatwave conditions, at news.oxfordshire.gov.uk/heatwave-warning---take-action/

Information about how Oxford City Council deals with rough sleeping is at www.oxford.gov.uk/tacklinghomelessness