Advice on how to help rough sleepers and most vulnerable during cold weather

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People sleeping on the streets during winter are especially vulnerable to cold weather.

The cold weather can be dangerous if you don’t have access to warm clothes or shelter. This page will tell you how to keep yourself and others safe during low temperatures.

Drugs, alcohol, and the cold

Drinking alcohol can make you think you are warm. But the idea of a ‘beer jacket’ is just a myth. When you drink, your body temperature lowers, it’s just your skin that feels warm. This is down to blood vessels underneath the skin expanding to allow more blood and heat to flow through them. But this takes heat away from the rest of your body and your internal organs.

Certain drugs can also have an impact on your body temperature. A lot of side-effects of taking drugs are also similar to side effects of hypothermia. It’s important to ask for help if you start to feel unwell.

How you can help people sleeping rough during cold weather

There are many ways you can help the most vulnerable people during colder months, including people sleeping on the streets.  You can donate items to homeless charities, such as:

  • Warm jumpers and coats
  • Hats, scarves, and gloves
  • Socks
  • Blankets
  • Sleeping bags

Donating food will also help those most vulnerable to the cold. If you see someone sleeping on the streets, you could also buy them a hot meal or hot drink and give it to them directly.

Another way you can help is to use the website StreetLink (opens in a new tab) to let your local authority or local outreach service know that there is someone who needs their help. They will try to find the person at the location you logged on StreetLink and help them find a warm bed and the support they need.

Other Support

You can find your local outreach service using our find a service feature. They will be able to advise which items need donating and where you can drop them off.

The housing charity Shelter have a guide for how to support people sleeping on the streets (opens in a new tab). This provides more information on what support is available to the most vulnerable.

On the British Red Cross website, you can learn first aid specially for someone with hypothermia (opens in a new tab). You should always call 999 if you come across someone you think has hypothermia, this will help keep them safe until the ambulance arrives.