Pressure is growing on Brighton and Hove City Council to extend the opening times of emergency homeless shelters in the cold winter months.
Activists said ‘Severe Weather Emergency Protocol’ (SWEP) was activated in Brighton and Hove as temperatures dropped over the weekend and on Monday night, but halted again on Tuesday as the weather was no longer deemed to be extreme.
The First Base centre in St Stephens Hall on Montpelier Place was used as emergency shelter for rough sleepers during SWEP. Entry was permitted from 8pm onwards, with no referral or local connection needed.
Campaigners are now heaping pressure on councillors to protect rough sleepers by extending the scope of SWEP to last throughout the winter, rather than for isolated periods of extreme weather.
Ree Melody, of campaign group Love Activists Brighton, said: “The council needs to change their arbitrary decision making process and consider the severe impact which the rain, wind and other conditions have on those living on our streets, instead of waiting for it to become below zero temperatures for three consecutive nights running.”
Currently the requirements state that three consecutive nights at zero or below is the minimum requirement to activate SWEP responses.
The Love Activists group has been lobbying the council to apply ‘Extended Winter Provision’ as advised by the guidance from the charity Homeless Link, which would make it possible for councils to open emergency centres from November through to March.
A Homeless Link report which aims to advise local authorities on providing appropriate responses for people sleeping rough says the authority in question should consider factors ‘such as wind chill, snow coverage and duration of extreme weather’ when considering adequate provision.
It adds the aim of the protocol is to prevent deaths on the streets and local authorities should do everything they can to prevent harm.
Ms Melody said: “Love Activists have been lobbying the council for the past couple of years for SWEP to be open throughout winter with our other Solution Based Proposals To End Homelessness.”
These proposals include the activation of SWEP not only throughout the winter months but also in any weather which threatens rough sleepers’ health, as well as imposing affordable social rents on private landlords to ensure everyone can afford a home.
Cllr Clare Moonan, the council’s lead member for rough sleeping, said: “We do appreciate that people are concerned about rough sleepers, and especially in cold weather, and that is why we have asked everyone to support the Make Change Count campaign organised with local homeless charities this winter. With our partners, and under the Rough Sleeping Strategy, we work hard to make sure vulnerable people on our streets are cared for, not just in extreme weather, but throughout the year, and welcome the regular discussion about this at committee meetings and full council. The services we provide in extreme weather are to provide additional emergency support on top of the other services already being provided, and we do take into account weather conditions other than zero temperatures.”
A 38Degrees petition addressed to Brighton and Hove councillor for the homeless Clare Moonan demanding open night shelters for rough sleepers has now been signed by almost 4,000 people.
At tonight’s (January 26) Full Council meeting Green councillor Tom Druitt is set to put forward a motion requesting urgent action on the homelessness crisis.
Original article here