Emergency measures brought in for rough sleepers as temperatures fall

Rough sleeper stock image

Conditions are expected to get noticeably colder tonight and in preparation, Tower Hamlets Council has activated its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), part of a pan-London response to provide additional support to rough sleepers.

When the temperature reaches zero or below, SWEP is activated across London. Additional beds are made available in hostels and facilities that would usually be closed during parts of the day are kept open to provide a warm place for people to shelter.

The council's rough sleeper outreach team will work longer hours, hitting the ground encouraging known rough sleepers to come in from the cold and reacting to incoming new referrals from StreetLink - the app that allows members of the public to alert us to people on the streets in need of specialist support.

Last year, during ‘the beast from the east’, the council's teams worked relentlessly in freezing conditions to successfully persuade all but a tiny number of people to take up the offer of shelter.

For a number of those people who were brought in as a result of the severe weather, the team’s cold weather intervention proved to be a turning point in their lives. With the help of outreach workers and partner organisations they did not return to the streets and are now well on the way to a future with secure housing and the prospect of employment.

This year, Tower Hamlets Council, working alongside partner organisations, has made the following additional support available:

  • 16 additional SWEP beds in our hostel sector in addition to a further nine emergency beds recently made available - bringing the total to 25. 
  • A further 15 beds commissioned from Providence Row with funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative. This accommodation can provide space for pets and couples, an issue that has previously been a barrier to people taking up bed space opportunities.
  • Authorisation to make alternative arrangements (including bed and breakfast bookings where suitable) in the unlikely event that accommodation cannot be found using the facilities above.
  • Access to the pan-London provision thanks to relationships with partner boroughs and the GLA. We do not anticipate needing to make use of this option due to the number of beds we've made available in Tower Hamlets.
  • If the daytime temperature stays below zero, most accommodation that would normally be closed during the day will be open to rough sleepers, providing them with shelter inside in the warm.
  • Please note - We cannot accept self referrals at any of our hostels. Rough sleepers must be processed by the Tower Hamlets outreach team. 

What should you do during severe weather if you want to help?

  • Download the StreetLink app on your tablet or smartphone. 
  • Remain extra vigilant for people sleeping rough and use the app, or the StreetLink website, to help the outreach team find people they don’t already know about.
  • Call 999 if you see someone who is in immediate danger or experiencing a medical emergency.
  • Consider donating to homelessness charities such as St Mungo’s, Providence Row, Crisis or Shelter who are working to support people inside and away from the streets.
  • Find out more about what is happening to tackle rough sleeping in the borough and across London.

Street Link

Posted on Thursday 3rd January 2019