The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has triggered a severe weather emergency response in the capital to support rough sleepers struggling to stay safe in soaring temperatures.
The pan-London Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is typically activated when temperatures plummet to freezing in the winter, to prompt councils – alongside homelessness charities – to provide emergency accommodation and support for vulnerable people sleeping rough.
This year the Mayor, in partnership with London Boroughs and charities through the Life off the Streets programme, has revised the Hot Weather SWEP (H-SWEP) guidance to provide greater support for those on the streets.
With temperatures set to soar to 34 degrees this week, and the UK Health Security Agency issuing an AMBER Heat Health Alert for London in effect between 12:00 on 5 September and 21:00 on 10 September, the Mayor is ensuring there is vital support in place for rough sleepers across the capital.
People sleeping rough are especially vulnerable, as they are likely to face greater exposure to the heat and suffer from underlying health conditions.
City Hall has written to all boroughs and rough sleeping services and asked that they:
- enhance local outreach services, including providing water and sunscreen to people sleeping rough;
- signpost people who are sleeping rough to suitable cool spaces;
- provide suitable accommodation for those who are most vulnerable to the effects of heat;
- consider UKHSA guidance on staying safe in hot weather;
- forward the SWEP alert to any services supporting people sleeping rough in their area.
Members of the public concerned for anyone rough sleeping should contact StreetLink.
Sadiq has made tackling rough sleeping a priority for his Mayoralty and has quadrupled his rough sleeping budget since taking office in 2016. Since then, more than 15,500 people have been helped off the streets by City Hall commissioned services.
At £36.3m, the Mayor’s rough sleeping budget in 2023/24 is now more than four times the £8.45m a year it was when Sadiq took office. This includes £12.1m of City Hall funding and £23.5m secured from the Government.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “This ongoing heatwave could be dangerous for anyone, but for people sleeping rough, there are additional risks. That is why City Hall is working with London’s boroughs to prioritise support for some of our most vulnerable Londoners.
“Across the capital, we are taking action to assist those forced to sleep rough in these extremely high temperatures by enhancing local outreach services, ensuring that people who are sleeping rough have access to cool spaces and, where possible, providing suitable accommodation for those most vulnerable to the effects of heat.
“As ever, London’s councils and charities will be working hard this week to support those sleeping rough in our city, and I thank them for their tireless efforts.”
Bill Tidnam, Chief Executive of Thames Reach, said: “While most of us are enjoying the fine weather, it’s important to remember it can be dangerous for people who are forced to sleep rough, particularly those with health conditions. Thames Reach’s outreach teams are stepping up their service during the very hot weather, just like we do in cold weather, and will do our best to make sure people have access to accommodation and cool spaces as well as basics like water and suncream.
“Please do let us know through Street Link if you are worried about someone you see sleeping on the streets, and we and colleagues from other organisations will do our best to find and help them.”