More than 650 homeless Londoners have been helped off the streets and into emergency accommodation during the recent spell of freezing weather, following an emergency response triggered by the Mayor.
The pan-London Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (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.
The Mayor activated SWEP for the first time this winter on Wednesday the 7 December, when overnight temperatures in the capital dipped below freezing. As London was blasted by snow and endured icy conditions, SWEP was in effect for 12 days, until Monday the 19th of December – 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 – the highest last year was 128. It’s also more than three quarters of the total accommodated across all the SWEP periods in the whole of last winter.
The Mayor has repeatedly warned that rising bills and housing costs are fuelling an increase in the number of people forced 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 24 per cent in the past year, meaning more than 3,600 people slept on the capital’s streets between June and September 2022. This is despite the Mayor’s rough sleeping services helping record numbers off the streets, with more than 13,500 people sleeping rough supported since 2016.
At the beginning of this month, 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. Donations to the appeal have helped to support the Youth Homelessness Hub, a centre for helping vulnerable young homeless people first established in Hounslow last year, 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 the link in the notes below. There are 35 TAP points across London, including at Waterloo, Victoria, London Bridge and Liverpool Street stations. Sadiq’s winter rough sleeping campaign has raised more than £600,000 since 2017.
Londoners can also use the StreetLink app or website to connect people they see sleeping rough with local support services.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London has just experienced one of the most severe cold snaps in recent memory. For 12 days councils and homelessness charities worked tirelessly to protect people sleeping rough from potentially lethal conditions on the streets. Thanks to their outstanding efforts, more than 650 Londoners were helped into emergency accommodation and will now work with support staff to plan for a permanent move off the streets.
“But the hard work doesn’t stop here. Since becoming Mayor, I’ve made it a personal priority to tackle rough sleeping and we’ve managed to help a record 13,500 people through our support services as we work to build a fairer London for all. But to end rough sleeping in our capital, particularly amid the cost of living crisis, the Government must intervene to prevent the circumstances that lead to people sleeping rough before thousands more are forced to face a winter on the streets.
“This Christmas, I’m inviting Londoners to donate whatever they can to my winter fundraising campaign and I encourage all Londoners to help connect people they see sleeping rough with local support services using the Streetlink website or app.”
Petra Salva, Director of Rough Sleeping at St Mungo’s said: “We know that sleeping rough is dangerous all year round, but the freezing temperatures we have seen recently can pose a significant risk to life.
During periods of cold and extreme weather it is essential that members of the public, people experiencing homelessness and other support services are all aware that additional accommodation and support is available.
The SWEP period remained activated for 12 days and our team worked around the clock to ensure that these 650 people were brought into the safe and warm.
St Mungo’s is here, alongside our partners, and with our outreach team working throughout the year to provide support to those who are sleeping rough.”