More than 100 extra bed spaces will be available for people sleeping rough in the city when the cold weather hits Bristol this weekend.
The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) aims to prevent loss of life during periods of extreme weather. It also presents an opportunity to engage with long-term rough sleepers, who are normally resistant to coming indoors.
SWEP is activated when the Met Office predicts three consecutive nights (or more) of a minimum temperature of zero degrees centigrade or below or where there is evidence that severe weather conditions are having a significant impact on the health of people sleeping rough.
Other factors may also be taken into account such as wind chill where there is a risk of loss of life for people sleeping out.
Even though the temperatures will not be cold enough on three consecutive nights, the prolonged period of cold weather and rain since Christmas is beginning to have a detrimental impact on the health of a number of people currently sleeping on the streets.
By enacting the SWEP for a four day period it will allow people to have a period of rest and recovery and allow the Rough Sleeper Service to engage with people and assist them into supported accommodation.
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “Through the City Office we set a challenge that no one should have to spend a second night on the street, something which is even more important during extremely cold weather.
“We have had a great response, and I would like to thank everyone that has come forward to help us from local businesses, faith groups and other organisations.
“We know that rough sleeping can be a complex issue, linked to debt, family breakdown, substance misuse or maybe all three.
“We are developing our long term approach with an emphasis on preventing people from ending up sleeping rough. At the core of that will be building the affordable housing we desperately need.”
The SWEP provision will be coordinated from the Compass Centre run by St Mungo’s. Priority for access to SWEP spaces will be decided by the Outreach team. People will be allocated bed spaces from the Compass Centre and advised on how to reach the hostel bed spaces.
Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Homes and Communities, said: “We are striving for a One City approach to homelessness and rough sleeping in Bristol. No one should have to sleep on the streets.
“Rough sleeping is particularly dangerous during periods of cold weather, and it is vital to provide a bed for everyone who needs one.
“I hope we can also use this as an opportunity to engage with people who have been rough sleeping for a long period of time and try and find them a way off the streets.”
Every time the SWEP is enacted it will run for a minimum of three nights. In a situation of severe or enduring cold weather this provision will be extended and additional resources will be arranged.
SWEP was last activated in Bristol in December 2016 due to cold weather and before that in February and March 2015 due to extended periods of wet weather that were having a significant impact on the health of people who were sleeping rough.
David Ingerslev, Rough Sleeping Services, St Mungo’s said: “We have an outreach team who go out onto the streets throughout the week every week of the year to make contact with people who are rough sleeping.
“We advise people about their quickest routes off the streets and support them to leave the streets. It can take a few days for someone to engage with us or it can take months, sometimes years.
“SWEP is an emergency short term solution for people who are sleeping on our streets. It means we can keep people safe during the extreme cold weather when the alternative would be serious illness and even death.
“SWEP gives us an opportunity to engage with rough sleepers who may not otherwise be willing to accept our help, and trained staff and volunteers can assess their needs and get individuals the support they really need to make a life safer off the streets.”
The four charities that provide night shelters to support rough sleepers have come together to set up a single, online crowdfunding appeal that offers people the chance to make a donation to help support their vital services. To find out more about the campaign visit https://www.fundsurfer.com/project/bristol-rough-sleeping-partnership