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Mayor activates severe weather provision to protect homeless Londoners

© Tom Parsons

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has activated the pan-London Severe Weather Emergency Protocols (SWEP) to protect homeless people as temperatures are forecast to fall below 0°C across the capital 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 is the third SWEP activation this winter.

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.

Despite the imposition of Tier 4 restrictions on London over Christmas, Londoners have shown that their sense of generosity and Christmas spirit remains undimmed by donating more than £16,200 to the Mayor’s Winter Rough Sleeping campaign since it was launched a fortnight ago (on December 16).

These funds will directly benefit young Londoners affected by the pandemic – with instability, lack of opportunities and unstable employment forcing hundreds into homelessness for the first time. Funds will be split between four charities working with young homeless Londoners: Depaul, akt, Centrepoint and New Horizons Youth Centre.

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.”