The “severe weather emergency protocol” (SWEP) has been triggered for the first time this winter as temperatures plummeted last week.
Outreach workers went looking for rough sleepers to offer them a bed in a night shelter as the air temperature was forecast to feel like freezing or below.
There are believed to be about 30 people currently sleeping rough locally, according to Brighton and Hove City Council.
But given the extra support for rough sleepers this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the council is operating the SWEP in a different way to previous years.
The council said: “With covid emergency accommodation still available to anyone sleeping rough in the city and the need for covid safety measures to be in place, the council’s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is operating differently this year.
“The focus continues to be to help everyone sleeping on the streets into safe, secure accommodation. Food and support is still being provided for everyone who needs it.
“The council’s street outreach partners St Mungo’s are working in the city seven days a week to engage with everyone rough sleeping to help support them into accommodation.
“Some people with complex needs can find it difficult to move from the streets and we are aware of around 30 people currently sleeping rough in the city.
“A council-run SWEP venue with self-contained rooms has been set up to make sure there is an alternative safe place to stay in severe weather for anyone reluctant to take up the other offers of accommodation.
“A severe weather shelter is opened when the temperature is predicted to feel like zero degrees celsius or below or when there is an amber weather warning.
“This is one of the lowest triggers for opening SWEP services in the country.
“SWEP provides shelter for all rough sleepers in the city and venues are available to meet demand.
“The shelter was triggered for the first time at the beginning of last week and was open over the weekend.
“When SWEP is triggered, St Mungo’s Street Outreach Service go out looking for the people we know to be rough sleeping to find them warm accommodation.
“Anyone not accommodated during the day is referred into our SWEP venue by the street outreach service.”
The council added: “We’re asking anyone who sees someone rough sleeping to let us know through the Streetlink website or by calling 0300 500 0914. The outreach team will then seek to accommodate them.
“It is important that anyone sleeping rough is offered help as soon as possible and that the assistance offered meets their needs, so accommodation is being provided through referrals from organisations who understand what’s available and what support is needed.
“As emergency accommodation is available for everyone sleeping rough every day this year, there won’t be a public announcement when SWEP is triggered, but the service will be accessible through our referral agencies and partners.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve worked with health and voluntary sector partners to provide safe, self-contained accommodation for people who were sleeping rough.
“We’re currently accommodating around 360 people who would otherwise be sleeping rough in the city and are working to support them all into sustainable long-term housing.
“Around 130 people have left emergency accommodation since the end of September. Most of these people have been successfully rehoused in more stable accommodation and we’re on target to meet the challenging requirements set out in the government’s Next Steps Accommodation.
“We are still seeing some new people rough sleeping in the city every week, which adds to the pressure of providing accommodation, and the overall numbers remain high.
“In addition to this accommodation and SWEP, we’ve submitted bids to the government’s ‘Cold Weather Fund’ and ‘Protect Fund’ to provide specialist clinical intervention and additional accommodation for the most vulnerable rough sleepers over this winter. We are currently awaiting the outcomes of these bids.”
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