Emergency measures activated for rough sleepers as temperatures plummet

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Conditions are expected to get noticeably colder this weekend 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.

SWEP is activated when the temperature reaches zero or below. 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 to encourage known rough sleepers to come in from the cold. They will also be reacting to incoming referrals from StreetLink - the app that allows members of the public to alert us to people on the streets in need of specialist support.

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

  • 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 Charity, Crisis or Shelter who are working to support people inside and away from the streets.

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 Charity 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. However, if this is the most appropriate option, our outreach teams will accompany individuals to this accommodation.
  • 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.
Posted on Friday 17th January 2020