Severe Weather Emergency Provision vital to those out on the streets

As winter fast approaches, Matt one of our Rough Sleeper Support Service coordinators in Wakefield explains how vital the Severe Weather Emergency Provision is to those out on the streets. 

We continue to offer anyone located rough sleeping in Wakefield an immediate offer of accommodation as we do throughout the year. One difference in winter period is the Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) opens whenever the temperature is forecast to hit zero. So for those people who may be refusing help and our offers of accommodation at the time for whatever reason, they can attend the SWEP which is run and located at the local Baptist Church. Our service plays a key role in going out on outreach to check known hotspots for rough sleepers and to locate anyone we know might be sofa surfing/having the odd night out and we let them know the Baptist Church is open if they wish to attend and stay in somewhere warm for the night if unable to get on a mate’s sofa. We also attend the SWEP early next morning to see anyone who stayed and offer support whilst there with housing, benefits, GP… anything they need support with.

We also see an increase in people begging, some are genuinely homeless, some aren’t. This increase in people begging as shops are busier with people Christmas shopping, coincides with an increase in concerned members of public contacting us due to being worried about beggars/homeless people out in the cold. We therefore the increase amount of begging outreach we do in town centre and at retail parks, taking hot drinks and checking welfare of those begging and offering support if needed. We also do canvassing days along with community ambassadors, local police and street support network members to promote support services available to the public and encourage them to donate to local foodbanks and charities, rather than handing out money, which support people affected by homelessness and provide further support to get people off the streets. We also try to discourage those who are begging despite having accommodation and benefits in place so should be no reason for them to beg.