The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today activated the pan-London Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) to protect homeless people as temperatures are forecast to fall below 0°C tonight.
The activation of SWEP ensures that councils across London, alongside homelessness charities, open additional emergency accommodation for people who are sleeping rough during weather conditions that could pose a threat to life. All boroughs in London have committed to the Mayor’s ‘In for Good’ principle, which means no one will be asked to leave accommodation until a support plan is in place to end their rough sleeping, regardless of an increase in temperature.
The Mayor activated SWEP for the first time this winter on December 7, when overnight temperatures in the capital dipped below freezing. As London was blasted by snow and endured icy conditions, SWEP was in action for 12 days – the longest continuous period since 2017. It was then activated again for nine days between January 16th and 25th and three days between 27th and 30th January.
This winter’s SWEP periods have seen more than 1,200 Londoners helped off the streets and into emergency accommodation, a substantial increase on the 776 SWEP stays recorded last winter. The Mayor’s rough sleeping services are helping more people than ever before, with more than 13,500 rough sleepers supported off the streets since 2016.
The Mayor has warned that rising bills and housing costs are forcing growing numbers of people to sleep rough on London’s streets. The latest quarterly figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) show the number of people sleeping rough in London has jumped 21 per cent year on year, meaning more than 3,570 people slept on the capital’s streets between September and December.
In response to the housing crisis and the soaring cost of living the Mayor is calling on Ministers to immediately freeze private sector rents and reinstate the social security safety net which helps prevents people becoming homeless. This would include lifting the benefit cap, restoring the Universal credit uplift and unfreezing Local Housing Allowance.
To tackle soaring energy bills, Sadiq is proposing an emergency ‘lifeline tariff’ for the most vulnerable people should be introduced, which would allow a minimum floor of domestic energy use before charges begin.The Mayor is also calling on Government to deliver the promised reforms to the Private Rented Sector, including ending Section 21 evictions and to suspend the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition, which puts many people with NRPF status at serious risk of destitution and homelessness.
In December, the Mayor launched his annual winter rough sleeping fundraising campaign, working with charity partner TAP London to raise money for four charities that work with young homeless Londoners: akt, Centrepoint, Depaul UK, and New Horizon Youth Centre. The donations help to support the Youth Homelessness Hub, which recently reopened at a new location in north London.
Londoners can donate to the campaign in a number of ways, including at one of the TAP points or using this link. There are 35 TAP points across London, including at Waterloo, Victoria, London Bridge and Liverpool Street stations. Londoners can also use the StreetLink app or website to connect people they see sleeping rough with local support services.
Sadiq’s winter rough sleeping campaigns have raised more than £600,000 since 2017.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Across the capital, we are doing everything we can to prevent anyone sleeping rough in these freezing conditions. Since 2016 I have quadrupled funding which has enabled 13,500 people to move away from the streets but there is still so much to do and we can all play our part in building a fairer and safer London for everyone.
“That is why I am encouraging all Londoners to download the Streetlink app or use the Streetlink website to connect people they see sleeping rough with local support services.
“London’s councils and charities will be working even harder this week to support some of the most vulnerable people in our city. On behalf of all Londoners I thank them for their tireless efforts.”