Call for emergency homeless shelters to remain open throughout winter

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.

 

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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

Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness

We launched a petition to support the Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness on 38 Degrees. The e-petition has gathered 878 signatures and street crews gathered over 1000 handwritten signatures.

The solution based proposals were developed in consultation with the local community, prioritising feedback from rough sleepers.

We delivered the petition to the council and spoke at the full council meeting on the 28th January, where the proposals were received with warm words by members of all political parties.

The Council referred the proposals to the fairness commission, which we attended on the 18th February and to the Housing Committee which we will attend tomorrow, March 2nd.

You can read the proposals and sign the petition here:.

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PUBLIC DEMO: March 2nd – No More Deaths On Our Streets

Love Activists Brighton & people living on the street gathered almost 2,000 signatures. Some online and most were gathered on the street in support of the Solution Based Proposals To End Homelessness

The proposals were debated at the Full Council Meeting on 28th January. They were referred to be considered at the Housing & New Homes committee meeting on 2nd March.

This Committee has overall responsibility for the Council’s housing functions, including Council housing, homelessness, allocations and standards of housing in the area.

The public meeting is expected to start from 4pm. We have been told the public cannot participate in the discussion, only to sit in to listen.

We are rallying for a demo prior to the meeting from 3pm to express that we won’t tolerate anymore homeless people dying on our streets.

We will then join the meeting, to listen to the proposals being fully discussed.

Please come & join us in solidarity, there is a fedbook event page here.

SWEP Campaign Update

We recently flagged up how the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) was not activated during a ‘red’ severe weather warning on Sunday 7th February. This meant that emergency shelters were not opened for people living on the street.

Streetlink also failed to respond to our reported concern for those on the street and the fact that the centres were not opened. One love activist managed to call through to someone linked with Streetlink (at St Mungo’s in Brighton) on the Sunday but was told that she was wasting her time if she couldn’t be specific about where individuals were. Completely missing the point that the concern was for everyone left out in the severe weather :/

We have received the following reply regarding the SWEP protocol from Cllr Clare Moonan below:

“It was good to meet you last week at the Fairness Commission and talk about the operation of the SWEP during the recent storms.

I’d like to apologise again, on behalf of the city council for the fact that the shelters weren’t opened on Sunday 7 February evening when they should have been. Something went wrong and we undertook an urgent investigation at the most senior level to find out why. We have as a result put in place measures to improve this process to make it as robust and reliable as it possibly can be so that the shelters are opened when needed in bad weather.

We are reviewing the criteria that triggers the opening of the shelters. This winter, it’s been the strong winds that have been more severe than usual. We are investigating if we can relax the opening criteria to include more periods of strong winds and when the temperature reaches a level higher than the current trigger. These would be temporary measures for this winter only.

The council’s Rough Sleepers strategy, due to go to committee in July, will outline how we plan to continue and improve the service we offer. I do hope you will contribute to the consultation with your thoughts and ideas on our proposed city wide approach.

We are currently in the process of arranging a time to meet with you and discuss this further and will confirm shortly. It will also be good to talk through some of the other issues you mentioned regarding the operation of the SWEP.

I look forward to meeting again soon.

Best wishes

Clare Moonan

Cllr Clare Moonan
Labour Councillor for Central Hove Ward
Deputy Chair Neighbourhoods, Communities and Equalities Committee
Chair West Area Housing Panel

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