The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has activated the pan-London Severe Weather Emergency Protocols (SWEP) for the first time this year to protect homeless people as temperatures are forecast to fall below 0°C across London this evening.
The activation of SWEP compels councils across London (in association with homelessness charities) to open emergency accommodation for people who are sleeping rough during the worst weather conditions.
This year, the pandemic has made the provision of SWEP more difficult as it had previously relied on communal sleeping arrangements. Because of the increased risk of Covid transmission in these settings, it is the Mayor’s position that only self-contained accommodation such as hotel rooms be used for SWEP provision this year.
Shared sleeping spaces should be considered by local authorities only as a last resort, when all options to provide self-contained rooms have been exhausted. This could be avoided if the Government increased funding to the Greater London Authority and boroughs during sustained periods of cold weather to provide self-contained accommodation throughout the winter.
All London councils have also committed to implementing the Mayor’s ‘In for Good’ principle, meaning that once someone has accessed SWEP shelter, they are accommodated until a support plan is in place to end their rough sleeping – regardless of whether the temperature has risen above freezing.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Homelessness is an emergency whatever the weather – but the pandemic has compounded the risks faced by the most vulnerable Londoners. Local authorities, charities and others supporting homeless people have been working tirelessly throughout this crisis and will continue to do so as temperatures fall.
“But it is a simple fact that Covid-secure accommodation costs more than traditional shelter space, so the Government must supply appropriate funding as a matter of urgency to ensure nobody is left on the streets during freezing conditions.”