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.
It comes as the UK Health Security Agency yesterday issued a level three cold alert which will remain in place until Thursday night, with freezing weather set to continue throughout the week.
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.
During this 12-day period, councils and charities helped more than 600 Londoners off the streets and into emergency accommodation. This is almost five times the number of people accommodated during any of the periods of SWEP last year. It’s also more than three quarters of the total accommodated across all the SWEP periods in the whole of last winter.
In total, SWEP was active for 26 days this winter.
Sadiq is warning that rising bills and housing costs are forcing growing numbers of people to sleep rough on London’s streets. Recently released Government figures showed rough sleeping has increased in every region of England year-on-year, with the biggest rise in London (34 per cent). There were 858 people in 2022 estimated to be sleeping rough in the capital on a single night compared with 640 people in 2021, an increase of 218 people. 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.
In response to the housing crisis and the soaring cost of living the Mayor has repeatedly called on Ministers to immediately freeze private sector rents and reinstate the social security net which prevents people becoming homeless. This would include lifting the benefit cap and unfreezing Local Housing Allowance. He’s 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 campaign has raised more than £600,000 since 2017.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “With freezing conditions expected in London through this week, I’ve activated my severe weather emergency protocol which will ensure anyone seen sleeping rough across the capital is offered a place in emergency accommodation. I am also encouraging Londoners to download the Streetlink app or use the Streetlink website to connect people they see sleeping rough with local support services.
“Since 2016, we’ve quadrupled funding and support to tackle homelessness, helping over 13,500 rough sleepers off the streets, but there’s much more to do. Too many people are facing freezing temperatures on the streets of the capital without the safe, secure accommodation they need.
“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.”