Emergency plan launched to protect rough sleepers as temperatures set to plummet

By Ben Fitzgerald - 31 January 2019

  • Threshold Housing's Street Outreach team are among the agencies working closely with Swindon Borough Council to look after the welfare of Swindon's homeless.

    Threshold Housing's Street Outreach team are among the agencies working closely with Swindon Borough Council to look after the welfare of Swindon's homeless.

Front-line staff and volunteers are on standby to provide emergency housing support, in the face of the icy blast predicted to hit Swindon.

With temperatures set to plummet below zero and the Met Office issuing a snow and ice warning, Swindon Borough Council has initiated its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol to protect those sleeping rough outside.

Under the Government-backed scheme - which kicks in when temperatures fall below freezing point for three consecutive days - emergency accommodation is made available to homeless people.

SWEP is a temporary emergency arrangement which relies on staff going over and above their normal working commitment to ensure that rough sleepers are provided with shelter from the potentially life-threatening low temperatures.

If necessary, the council’s housing options team can make use of B&Bs and hotels to provide places to stay for anyone who says they are homeless.

Individuals have the right to make their own decisions about whether to accept the offer of shelter.

In Swindon, the number of people sleeping rough has increased significantly over the past few years. There are estimated to be between 20 and 30 people in Swindon who are sleeping on the streets at any given time.

Every day Swindon Borough Council offers an emergency walk-in service for those who are homeless or who may lose their home within seven days.

It engages with rough sleepers and monitors their needs. Works to try to secure safe accommodation and provides relevant information through the Swindon HomeGuide Service

Every year, the council spends £1.4m on supported housing projects and outreach services every year including the provision of direct access hotels.

During the winter months, the council and its partners set up a temporary winter housing provision scheme. Under the scheme, up to 12 rough sleepers join a 12-week programme to help them move into long-term accommodation.

Members of the public are encouraged to alert Swindon Borough Council to vulnerable rough sleepers in by calling Street Link on 0300 500 0914 or by visiting the Street Link website. Street Link is an organisation that aims to connect homeless people with the range of services that can provide support. 

A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: "We implement our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) when the weather is forecast to be zero degrees or lower for three consecutive nights, or when there is extreme weather that may pose a threat to anyone who is sleeping rough.

“During the SWEP period the council offers emergency accommodation to anyone who is, or at risk of, rough sleeping that night. While any rough sleeper is in accommodation, a member of the Housing Options Team will work with them to find a longer-term solution to their housing problems.

“Partner agencies are emailed when this is in place and we advertise it daily on social media. We also encourage the general public to use an online tool for any alerts and this information will be forwarded to the council to respond to. This can be found at https://www.streetlink.org.uk

“These arrangements are in addition to our commissioned homelessness provision which includes two hostels, additional specialist provision for young people and those with mental health issues and of course our Temporary Winter Housing Provision which remains open until mid-March. We also have outreach workers  and Housing First officers who work with rough sleepers during the day, while we also commissioned a day centre provision to provide further support to those that need it." 

Rough sleepers can also refer themselves by visiting Wat Tyler House in Beckhampton Street SN12JG or by calling 01793 445503.


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