Climate change is affecting the world all around us. The earth is warming, sea levels rising and weather patterns changing.  

These small changes are having big consequences; increasing the frequency of extreme weather and natural disasters, damaging ecosystems, risking food and water supplies and increasing the risks to human life, health and infrastructure.

It's going to change how everyone lives, but for people who are experiencing homelessness or living in poverty, the crisis will hit them the hardest.

How does climate change affect people experiencing homelessness?

Rough sleeping is already extremely unpleasant and damaging to people’s well-being and physical health. In some cases, it can be deadly. In 2022, 1,313 people died when homeless in the UK.

Climate change only increases this risk. Temperatures will reach new extremes, plummeting to new depths and soaring to new heights more frequently. It will also cause more extreme weather such as floods, storm and snow. 

Without a place to shelter from the elements, people who are rough sleeping bear the brunt of this extreme weather, putting their health at risk.

Baltic winter temperatures are a nightmare for people sleeping rough. Frostbite and hypothermia are just some of the risks. For many, the uncertainty of whether they will survive the night looms large. (Here are our top 13 ways you can help rough sleepers this winter).

Hot weather can also exacerbate existing health conditions, with hospital admissions for people experiencing homelessness peaking during the summer months. (Here are our top 5 ways you can help someone rough sleeping in the heat).

Worsening air pollution adds an additional danger, killing more and more people. People sleeping rough can’t escape the polluted city areas and often rest and sleep near busy roads where pollution is at its highest.

How will climate change increase homelessness?

Millions of people across the world are at risk of becoming homeless because of climate change. People are being forced to move elsewhere as land becomes inhabitable. Other people are seeing their homes destroyed by flooding, landslides and wildfires.

There is a real danger of that here in London too due to rising sea levels. Modelling suggests several boroughs and thousands of homes could be underwater by 2050, forcing people out of their home and devastating their lives.

How climate change will make living more unaffordable

Climate change won’t just impact people on the streets; it will affect us all, driving up household bills and putting more pressure on households:

  • Energy bills will become more expensive, both for cooling homes in summer and heating them in winter. With as many as 1 in 3 families in the UK living in fuel poverty, the added strain of extreme weather will make it even tougher for households to survive.
  • The cost of food is susceptible to hikes too. Extreme weather, and disasters are increasingly responsible for production shortages that bump up food prices.

  • Water bills could rise by up to 40% to cover repairs to fix sewage spills caused by increasing flash flooding. 

  • More towns and areas could become inhabitable due to flooding, putting increased demand on housing and driving up both rent and house prices.

As the cost-of-living increases, households teetering on the edge will find it harder and harder to pay bills and rent and may face the real possibility of homelessness.

What needs to be done?

Ending climate change requires long-term collective action, but we can also take simpler immediate steps to help people who are rough sleeping affected now.

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is a set of guidelines and procedures that are activated during extreme weather to protect people who are rough sleeping. But now these are only activated in cold weather. We need guidance for different weather conditions too. The Museum of Homelessness found that SWEP during hot weather or period of heavy rain was not on the agenda for many councils. This isn’t good enough.

Cities get hot. They create a ‘heat island’ effect and have limited access to cooler, greener spaces. We need more trees and greenspace to help keep our cities cool and more liveable for everyone.

Without access to water, people sleeping rough are likely to dehydrate, especially during summer. More water stations need to be built and better signposted, so everyone has easy access to water.


Our expect teams work around the clock to support Londoners off the street and come into action when SWEP is activated. Like Christopher who we helped into one of our cold weather shelters last winter. Today, he’s living in his own home, on the up, and making strides towards his next career.

Check out our articles to help people sleeping rough during extreme weather.

Everyone deserves a safe and stable place to call home.