Rough sleepers stay in tents despite worst red weather alert in a decade

Council's outreach partners say they offer a SWEP place to everybody they found out during Storm Eunice

Thursday, 24th February — By Isabelle Stanley


A row of tents in Euston last Saturday night

THE Town Hall helped 22 rough sleepers off the streets this weekend under an emergency severe weather protocol, but three times as many people were left out in the storm.

Freezing temperatures, driving rain and 80mph wind last weekend posed such a high threat to life that a city-wide emergency protocol was put in place to bring rough sleepers inside.

Debris fell from rooftops and trees fell into the road – a woman was killed by one in neighbouring Haringey – and the wind was bitingly cold.

The severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) legally requires local authorities to provide accommodation in temporary housing to every rough sleeper.

However, on Saturday morning – when everyone should have been inside for the night – volunteers from Streets Kitchen found 68 people who had been sleeping out around Camden.

New data from the Greater London Authority supported their count – the GLA found more than 50 people were living full time on Camden’s streets at the end of last year.

Elodie Berland from Streets Kitchen said: “Communication with the council has improved, but if you look at the number of people we found sleeping out – it’s the same number of people we usually see on outreach.

“I think some people were approached to be offered a place in but then one young woman for example was offered a room, and it was to share with seven men and her husband so they decided to leave.

“The options for temporary accommoda­tion are not very safe. People feel safer in the rain and the wind than in the accommodation.”

Council candidate Phil Cowan, who volunteers for Streets Kitchen and used to be homeless himself, said even if you manage to get someone into accommodation, it can do more harm than good.

He said: “I met a man maybe a year ago and he was sitting on a bench in Primrose Hill. I spoke with him and he explained his situation, so I phoned Streetlink [a service connecting rough sleepers with outreach services] and left a message and emailed.

“They said they’d be with him by 5am if I left our location. It was really nasty weather, but they said he had to be outside when they found him. So I left him with bedding but he called me at 6am and said no one had come.

“He was then eventually referred to a hostel in Kilburn so he was only out for one night, but he found that everyone was drinking and taking drugs, and he wanted out. He said he was going to Islington because there were better resources there.”

Camden operates an ​​“In For Good” principle meaning anyone that was brought in under SWEP should now be offered accommodation.

Its partner Routes Off the Streets said it offered accommodation to every rough sleeper they encountered over the weekend and only a minority of individuals refused the offer or did not use the bed.

Labour councillor Nadia Shah, the council’s community safety chief, said: “Our Routes off the Streets outreach teams were out in the borough Friday to Sunday during the severe weather working hard to support every person sleeping rough they engaged with into accommodation.

“A majority accepted this offer and used the bed made available to them. All of our short stay accommodation operates under the “in for good” principal, which means that every effort is made to secure each individual a move-on option that will prevent them from returning to the streets.

She added: “Routes of the Streets are out in the borough every day throughout the year working in close collaboration with partner agencies to help people on the streets to access the support and temporary accommodation they need to begin rebuilding their lives and move towards secure, independent living.”

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