The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has boosted the capital’s ability to get rough sleepers off the streets during the coldest days of winter by investing more than £800,000 in a new homeless accommodation at a hotel in east London.
The hotel, operated by St Mungo’s, will open when the Mayor activates his Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP). When temperatures anywhere in London are forecast to drop below 0C, SWEP compels councils (alongside homelessness charities) to open emergency accommodation for people who are sleeping rough during weather conditions that could pose a threat to life. The Mayor will spend a record £1.25m on SWEP services alone this year as well as working with the charity Housing Justice to provide grants to COVID safe winter shelters to assist them with long term solutions to those who access these crucial services.
Whilst London’s boroughs will be providing over 500 SWEP beds this winter, the new hotel will act as overflow accommodation, offering a further 66 rooms for rough sleepers across London. A further boost to pan-London capacity is expected in the new year to take the total number of SWEP places to more than 600 for the first time.
To avoid the risk of Covid infections, the Mayor has asked boroughs that only single-occupancy accommodation such as hotel rooms be used for SWEP provision this year.
All London councils have also committed to implementing the Mayor’s ‘In for Good’ principle, meaning that once someone has accessed SWEP accommodation, they are accommodated until a support plan is in place to end their rough sleeping – regardless of whether the temperature has risen above freezing.
SWEP has already been activated for the first time this year when temperatures fell below freezing on the weekend of November 27/28th.
Meanwhile, the Mayor is also investing £200,000 into Streetlink London, a self-referral line for rough sleepers to speak directly to an assessment and reconnection worker who can try to help end their rough sleeping. The service is also part-funded by Bloomberg Associates.
This work is being supported by a major new advertising campaign running alongside the Mayor’s Winter Rough Sleeping Fundraising campaign to make Londoners, including people sleeping rough, aware of the service and the support it can offer. These will run on digital screens across London donated by London Lites and JC Decaux. So far this year (Jan-Sep) StreetLink London has supported 313 people rough sleeping and helped 146 people into accommodation.
The Mayor also spends £50,000 a year in funding the Streetlink national service, alongside DLUHC and the Welsh Government, allowing the public to alert outreach workers to people they are concerned about who they see sleeping rough. This service is managed by Homeless Link in partnership with St Mungos.
Since 2016, working closely with Local Authorities and government, the Mayor’s rough sleeping services have helped over 12,000 rough sleepers, with the number of people sleeping on the street falling by 26 percent since 2016. Government data shows that in the last year alone, the number of rough sleepers in London has fallen by 37 percent.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Since becoming Mayor, I have made tackling rough sleeping a personal priority and we are finally starting to see sustained results with the number of rough sleepers falling in recent years – but there is still much to do. From City Hall and across London we are doing everything we can with the resources at our disposal to keep rough sleepers safe, especially during freezing conditions.
“This extra SWEP space will ensure that dozens more rough sleepers will receive warm, secure accommodation when temperatures drop, and thanks to the ‘In For Good’ principle we know they will be housed until a plan to end their rough sleeping is in place.
“The work of Streetlink is also vital in ensuring people sleeping rough spend as little time as possible on the streets of London and are helped to find a route out of homelessness by our hard-working outreach teams. No one should have to sleep rough this winter.”
Hannah Faulkner, St Mungo’s Head of Rough Sleeper Services who co-ordinates the pan-London SWEP provision, said: “St Mungo’s works tirelessly throughout the year – alongside the GLA, local councils and StreetLink – to ensure that anyone who is sleeping rough can get they help and support they need.
“Being street homeless is harmful and dangerous at any time. However, when the temperatures fall it can become life-threatening. This winter we are again facing the dual threat of cold weather and Covid-19. And the need to find suitable Covid-secure accommodation, where people can be safe from both, has been paramount.
“The additional capacity provided by this investment will hopefully mean that no one will have to sleep out in freezing conditions, and will be able to access the help and support needed to move off the streets for good.”