Heatwaves and homelessness

Keeping cool, staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, and drinking plenty of water is important for everyone during hot weather and heatwaves.

According to research by Victorian Council of Social Service, people experiencing homelessness—particularly those sleeping rough—are especially vulnerable during periods of extreme heat for a number of reasons:

  • Heat stress from spending extended periods of time outdoors
  • Potential social isolation
  • Living in a poorly insulated housing situation
  • Falling asleep and lying for extended periods of time in the sun, sometimes with multiple layers of clothes on
  • Sleeping in cars
  • Severe sunburn and blistered feet from walking on hot bitumen or tarmac
  • Being bitten extensively by mosquitoes and other insects
  • Being mistaken for sleeping peacefully when they are in a situation of severe heat stress or ill health

They are often invisible in existing emergency planning, preparation and responses.

During heatwaves and extremely hot weather, Launch Housing’s outreach teams do a number of things to support people sleeping rough, especially those with complex mental health issues.

Some councils provide extra funding to provide emergency accommodation for people experiencing homelessness to allow them to escape the heat. They also provide our outreach workers with water, sunscreen, hats, pool passes and movie vouchers.

The City of Melbourne website has information on libraries, shopping centres and other places to keep cool and out of the sun on their website, along with an interactive drinking fountain map.

If you see someone sleeping rough and think they might need help, please share information from this blog or consult ‘What to do if you see someone sleeping rough?’. There is also a 24-hour state-wide assistance line: 1800 825 955.