23 January 2024

The Homelessness Partnership BCP is reiterating its message that no-one experiencing homelessness has to sleep on the streets during the bitterly cold winter weather.

SWEP emergency protocol activated with low temperatures for homelessness. Image of house in snow.

The area’s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) was in place over the weekend, meaning that anyone rough sleeping in the conurbation had access to free, warm accommodation across a range of locations and services.

The partnership’s words come in response to suggestions that there were a number of people urgently needing tents and shelters suitable for freezing temperatures.

In fact, BCP has activated the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) four times so far this winter.

This established, multi-agency approach has provided safe shelter for around 70 people over the last week, during this winter’s most recent, and lengthiest, sub-zero spell.

Around 20 people who were helped into shelter during SWEP activation have already been supported into a range of long-term housing solutions, reinforcing SWEP’s potential to help people off the streets and take the first steps into safe accommodation.

Cllr Kieron Wilson (pictured, above), BCP Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing and Regulatory Services said:

‘The work that St. Mungo’s and our other partners have done over this period has been invaluable. They have protected many members of our community who currently find themselves without a home. The thing that has stuck out most for me is the individual cases and the people we have managed to move into more permanent accommodation.

‘One story that resonated was of a resident who has been known to us since 2018. They had previously struggled to engage with our services. However, during this last SWEP period, they accepted our help, engaged positively, and have now moved into a permanent placement. This is just one example of the fantastic work from our team by being patient and persistent in helping those without a home.’

The new ‘hybrid SWEP’ model first ran from 30 November to 4 December 2023 and has pioneered the use of communal centres to provide warm accommodation, reducing dependency on bed and breakfast hotels.

For the first time, Poole-based homelessness charity Routes to Roots hosted 12 beds at its Genesis Centre, while 24 people were accommodated at St Mungo’s new Fusion Centre in Bournemouth.

During this winter’s SWEPs, outreach and housing teams, as well as various other partner agencies have actively engaged with people coming in from the cold, helping people impacted by street homelessness to access the support they need to successfully move on from the streets.

SWEP is activated when there is a real risk of loss of life due to severe weather conditions. It is triggered when night-time temperatures are predicted to be zero Celsius or below for three consecutive nights according to the MET weather forecast.