Mayor of London activates emergency procedure for homeless

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Voluntary groups are concerned that the council did not respond quickly or properly when SWEP – the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol – was activated across London last month.

Rough times: street sleepers increased by 24% across London in 2022 – but Croydon Council provided only four emergency shelter beds in December

With freezing temperatures forecast tonight, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has activated “SWEP” – the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol – notifying local authorities across the capital, including Croydon Council, in an effort to get as many people sleeping rough into the safety of a shelter during the cold snap.

In Croydon, voluntary organisations and charities will be watching the council’s conduct very closely, after there were only two beds provided initially during the previous cold weather emergency last month.

It was only 24 hours into the previous SWEP period, which began on December 7 last year, that Croydon Council got round to providing four beds for the borough’s homeless.

The homlessness issues in Croydon have become acute, after the Churches Together organisation stopped providing its “floating shelter” during the covid lockdown.

Volunteers have also reported problems in terms of being able to contact social services duty officers at Croydon Council – even though the Mayor of London specifically requires there to be a 24/7 out-of-hours contact point during cold weather emergencies.

Cold-hearted: Mayor Perry has been moving on homeless people from outside council offices

Meanwhile, under the council’s £81,000 per year Mayor, Jason Perry – who lives in a £1million house close to Lloyd Park – Croydon has been taking steps to demolish temporary shelters in the town centre subways under Wellesley Road, while also removing the possessions of women rough sleepers from outside the council offices at Bernard Weatherill House.

Today’s notification sent to councils by Mayor Khan states, in big bold capitals, “SWEP ALERT 16/01/23: SWEP IS NOW ACTIVE.”

The notice goes on to say, “Met Office forecasts expect temperatures of 0°C or below in London on the night of the date above…

“Immediate actions required:

“Alert your local SWEP network that the emergency protocol has been activated.”

The SWEP network in Croydon includes charities, volunteers and organisations such as Croydon Voluntary Action.

The London Mayor last activated SWEP ahead of the December snowfall. Then, more than 650 homeless people from across the capital were brought in from the cold. That alert was kept in place for 12 days – the longest continuous period since 2017.

Rough sleepers were housed in emergency accommodation, with almost five times the number of people helped during any SWEP period in the previous year, when the most rough sleepers needing assistance was 128.

This backed up street surveys conducted earlier in the year which suggested a 24per cent increase in rough sleepers in London in 2022, compared to the previous 12 months, with more than 3,600 people sleeping on the capital’s streets between June and September according to the Combined Homelessness and Information Network.

The increase is attributed to the withdrawal of accommodation provision during the covid lockdown, and the impact of the cost of living crisis, making many hundreds of people homeless.

Expectations: London Mayor Sadiq Khan has issued councils with a checklist of what they are to do under SWEP

The Greater London Authority provides councils with some funding towards the cost of authorities and charities providing emergency cold weather accommodation under SWEP.

In the GLA’s guidance documents to councils, they outline minimum standards for SWEP, which include the requirements that “local SWEP capacity should match the anticipated level of need in the area”, and that this should be at least the same level of SWEP provision as in the previous year.

They also say, “Each council should ensure that their accommodation can be easily accessed from across the borough” by both the people sleeping rough and the services working them.

And it also states, “Councils will commit to implementing the ‘In for Good’ principle. This means that once someone has accessed SWEP shelter, they are sheltered/accommodated until a support plan is in place to end their rough sleeping – regardless of whether the temperature has risen above 0°C.”

Councils are also expected to provide daytime SWEP provision in the event of exceptionally prolonged or extreme cold weather.

Read more: £1,000 donation to Nightwatch as they battle cost of living crisis

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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1 Response to Mayor of London activates emergency procedure for homeless

  1. Sarah Bird says:

    I have volunteered for 10 drop ins for 4 years .Most of which have been in Croydon. Drop ins ,are great if the people in need ,can get there. Many cannot, as if they leave their belongings ie mattresses etc they can lose their belongings or often the council will remove them .Very clearly they cannot, carry their possessions around. It is an absolute disgrace that people are living in such appalling conditions in 2023 . Many live in doorways or in underpasses , car parks and been there for weeks if not months. Their stories are often heartbreaking. Many are veterans, which is a national disgrace ,as we all owe our liberty to the veterans. Homelessness under the Acts are not just the visible homeless , but many more in unsafe housing. The Law is very clear ,but in my view and experience, ignored by the exceptionally well paid officers at the Council. So again what are the officers actually employed to do and why are they employed ?. A good example is the person living in a tent by East Croydon station who has been there for sometime The council has a statutory and moral duty to assist.

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