With temperatures this week forecasted to drop as low as minus 7 degrees centigrade this Wednesday 28th February during the early morning hours and as the Met Office has issued an Amber Warning for snow for our area this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday, West Berkshire Council has again activated its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP). During this 2017/2018 winter, West Berkshire Council first activated its severe weather plan on 28 November 2017 and it has been in place for the majority of the time since.
As a result of this protocol, rough sleepers are able to access warm, safe accommodation, either at Two Saints or elsewhere depending on demand, as well as wider support and advice where appropriate. This targeted intervention helps the small number of people who are not normally eligible for services, choose to sleep rough or have previously refused support from housing services.
What Does “Homeless” Mean?
West Berkshire Council stipulates that:
“Homelessness doesn’t just mean sleeping rough. You’re considered homeless if you don’t have a home that you can legally occupy, but you may also be considered as homeless if you have a home, but can’t live there. This might be because you’ve been evicted illegally from it, or it is unreasonable for you to stay there, for example because of domestic violence or threats of violence against you or a member of your family.”
What is SWEP?
The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol is designed to support Local Authorities to provide Severe Weather Emergency Protocol responses in order to prevent deaths of people sleeping rough during winter. It also covers good practice in delivering Extended Winter Provision such as night shelters, and how these can be an opportunity to end people’s homelessness. It aims to get rough sleepers off the streets during periods of below zero night-time temperatures, by providing emergency accommodation. Housing authorities are required to ensure that there is provision in place for rough sleepers during periods of extreme cold weather, to prevent people dying on the streets during cold weather.
West Berkshire Council Commitments
Supporting rough sleepers during adverse weather is part of a much broader programme of activity of the council to tackle homelessness in the district. West Berkshire Council’s housing team works alongside a number of local partners year-round to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place as well as offering help and support when it does occur, including through its ‘No Second Night Out’ policy to help people find emergency accommodation.
The strength of the local partnership, and its commitment to tackling homelessness, meant West Berkshire was one of only 25 districts to be part of a new Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) scheme. The scheme helps develop coordinated, effective support for people experiencing multiple needs and has seen significant results in the areas where it has already been piloted. Together, partners fund a MEAM officer who is working with a small cohort of people with the most complex needs, including some sleeping rough in the area.
Councillor Hilary Cole, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Housing and Homelessness said:
“Throughout the year the council is working extremely hard to reduce homelessness and support people who sleep rough. We’re absolutely committed to ensuring that no one has to sleep outside; it is one of our priorities. This becomes even more important when it is extremely cold as it is now. West Berkshire Council’s severe weather emergency protocol will remain active for as long as necessary to make sure that all rough sleepers who want a warm, safe place are found somewhere to stay.
“People become homeless for many reasons but when they do it’s important they know that help is available to get them back on their feet. They do not have to do it alone as there are many services locally to listen to them, encourage them and give them practical support to begin rebuilding their lives. I would encourage anyone who needs help, or knows someone who needs help, to get in touch with the council’s housing team.”
Are You Homeless Or Rough Sleeping This Week?
Anyone without anywhere to sleep tonight should first visit the West Berkshire Council offices in Market Street during opening hours for support. Anyone who becomes homeless when the offices are closed should contact the council’s Emergency Duty Team on 01344 786543
Continued West Berkshire Homeless Support
The Newbury based West Berkshire Homeless charity did announce last week that it has secured a house and two flats to support seven homeless people and that the accommodation will be available this week. Calling for charitable donations to help furnish, the charity explained on their Social Media presence:
“Residents will be responsible for the day to day running and upkeep of these premises with the help of a volunteer management team overseen by the trustee’s they can stay as long as they wish.”
Confused Night Shelter Closure Dates
Reports of the night shelter are confusing as the ‘West Berkshire Save Our Services’ Solidarity Sleep Out event states that:
“The homeless shelter at the Salvation Army hall closes on the 28th of February”
though the shelter charity West Berkshire Homeless advises their doors will be open until Saturday 3rd March.
Solidarity Sleep Out At Risk?
With such low temperatures and snow forecast this week along with the night shelter remaining open and WBV extended SWEP, the impending Solidarity Sleep Out on Thursday 1st March maybe at risk? The Newbury Soup Kitchen suggests anyone contemplating joining the sleep out to contact the event organisers to confirm the event will go ahead.