You may have noticed that it's positively Arctic out there, and as pretty and exciting as a snowy London might be, the cold weather has a dark side. It is a significant danger to people sleeping on the streets and with the number of rough sleepers in the capital increasing, it's more than a bit worrying.
We all help where we can, buying sandwiches and hot drinks, lending a phone for someone to call a hostel, giving a spare jumper to someone, and every little helps. But, space for rough sleepers to get a warm night's rest, a shower and something to eat is incresingly becoming a challenge for charities and councils.
We recently spoke to Dan Olney from St Mungo's who explained the challenges that the charity faces when sub-zero temperatures hit.
We've also been working with the charity and our venue community to help source additional, overspill space, for the charity’s Pan-London SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) shelters, and we are very excited to announce our first venue to be approved for the scheme, All Star Lanes, Shoreditch.
When the weather is forecast to be zero degrees or below and local authority beds are filled, the Pan-London SWEP is commissioned by the Mayor to provide shelter for up to 80 rough sleepers per night.
“St Mungo’s has three main SWEP centres but once these are filled, they have to look for alternative space. We saw an opportunity to help as we have an engaged venue community that we could communicate the initiative to. We had a fantastic response and are delighted that All Star Lanes in Shoreditch has been accepted as potential additional SWEP accommodation this winter."
“It’s great to see more and more commercial initiative step up to help people sleeping rough in the capital, especially when temperatures hit freezing. There are lots of latent properties in the capital that can really help out the work of charities like St Mungo’s.”
Riemy Wan, Venue Marketing Manager at Hire Space
“It was a really easy decision for us to support this initiative. I have huge amounts of respect for the team at St. Mungo’s and the work that they do. Our venues have set opening hours which mean that we have vast unused spaces throughout the night. Knowing that these can be used for such an excellent cause is of great comfort to me. St. Mungo’s look after the site and ensure that staffing is sufficient to support rough sleepers throughout the night. I have all the confidence in our planning and proposals, and that they will have the venue returned ready for business the next day.”
Lucy Harrison-Dwyer, Head of Business Development and Events at All Star Lanes
“According to latest snapshot figures, about 1,170 sleep rough on the streets of London on a single night. During freezing temperatures, local authorities activate their SWEP plans and we provide additional Pan London support.
“We have three main centres but we also need back up and it’s great to have the offer of support from All Stars Lanes and Hire Space if we need it. Any secure space where mattresses or camp beds could be put up overnight and where there are toilets and shower facilities is suitable for SWEP accommodation. It’s about getting people inside so they can have a wash, some warm food and the chance to talk to people about their situation. It’s great to be able to spread the word to venues that may not have considered themselves suitable and ultimately provide more emergency accommodation for people who otherwise would be in freezing conditions on the streets.”
Dan Olney, Assistant Director of Pan London Street Homeless and Outreach Services at St Mungo’s
While the primary function of SWEP is about shelter, St Mungo’s use the opportunity to try and make a lasting difference and ensure that those brought in off of the streets do not need to return to rough sleeping. Through assessment of needs and entitlements, St Mungo’s aim to make an offer of accommodation to people away from the streets.
If you have access to commercial space that is not going to be in use every evening, you can support the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) by getting in touch with us. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org, who will then arrange for an assessment visit and review all the necessary logistical detail in anticipation for the next SWEP activation in the future.