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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 Protocols (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. 


With temperatures set to soar to 34 degrees this week and with a Level Three Heat Alert being issued by the Met Office, the Mayor is ensuring there is vital support in place for rough sleepers across the capital. People sleeping rough are especially vulnerable to the heat, being more likely to suffer from mental health issues, chronic health conditions and substance abuse problems. 


City Hall has written to all boroughs and rough sleeping services and asked that they:


  • Increase the frequency and alter the times of outreach shifts to boost daytime provision
  • Support local borough outreach teams to conduct welfare checks on known vulnerable people and set out how to identify the signs of heat stress
  • Ensure that all outreach teams, including the Mayor’s Rapid Response Team who respond to the StreetLink referrals in 25 boroughs, can provide sunscreen and water to rough sleepers
  • Provide advice and information (to both clients and services) about how to stay cool and safe
  • Ensure all outreach teams and clients are aware of the cool spaces and water fountains nearest to them


Members of the public concerned for anyone rough sleeping should contact StreetLink


Sadiq has made tackling rough sleeping a personal priority for his Mayoralty and since 2016, more than 12,000 rough sleepers have been helped off the streets by City Hall commissioned services. Meanwhile, the number of people seen sleeping rough by outreach workers in London during 2021/22 fell 24 per cent compared to 2020/21. 


At £36.6m, the Mayor’s rough sleeping budget in 2021/22 is more than quadruple the £8.45 million a year it was when the Mayor took office. This includes £12 million of City Hall funding and £24.6 million 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 increasing welfare checks, providing plenty of water and sunscreen and ensuring people sleeping rough know where to access cool spaces and water fountains. 


“As ever, London’s councils and charities will be working hard this week to support those sleeping rough in our city. On behalf of all Londoners, I thank them for their tireless efforts.” 


Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning, said: “Boroughs play a crucial role in co-ordinating local services and helping to keep those sleeping rough on London’s streets safe at all times, but especially during extreme weather events.


“Heatwaves increase health risks for the street homeless, so we’re working hard to ensure they get the support they need. We’ll be monitoring the situation in our communities closely in the coming days.”


Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, said “This extreme hot weather is particularly dangerous for people sleeping rough, and activating the severe weather emergency response will be vital for preventing loss of life in the capital over the coming days. We know that many of our frontline member organisations have already stepped up the support they are offering to people to keep them safe, and will be prepared to act on the Mayor’s directions.”


Director of Rough Sleeping, Westminster and Migrants for leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s Petra Salva OBE said: “We are pleased to see the Mayor treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves by activating SWEP. The temperatures we have seen this week, and which look set to continue, can kill people who are street homeless and it absolutely right that it is treated as an emergency. 


“As ever St Mungo’s teams are prepared to respond to this critical situation. We will continue to work tirelessly, with the support of local authorities, to ensure people have access to water and sunscreen, and are helped to find places to shelter from the heat - with extra outreach shifts taking place across the city. 


“We also urge members of public to be vigilant and to help during this time. Small acts of kindness such as checking how people are, and offering water or sunscreen – really can make a huge difference. Anyone concerned about a person who is street homeless can contact Streetlink which will let the local outreach team know so they can link up with that person and offer them support. And always, if someone is experiencing a medical emergency, please call 999 straight away.” Photo by Onofre_Bouvila, Wikimedia commons.