What is the procedure for rough sleepers in Shropshire over the winter?

Rough sleeping is one of the big problems of modern society. There are a lot of reasons why people rough sleep, including difficulties with the benefits system and problems with housing. Very often rough sleepers have mental health problems, sometimes triggered by trauma as is often the case for ex-military rough sleepers.

Shropshire Council has good rough sleeper policies and offers accommodation all winter long. But not everyone wants to take this up and many refuse mental health support. This is where specialist workers like the Shrewsbury Ark can do a lot to help. But some cases prove to be difficult to resolve and people cannot be forced to take help.

We are aware of rough sleepers and homeless people in Ludlow at the moment. I can’t talk about their circumstances but Shropshire Council, West Mercia Police and a housing association have been trying to help them. I would recommend anyone concerned about rough sleepers to contact myself, their local councillor or Streetlink.

If you want to help rough sleepers more generally, please donate to the Shrewsbury Ark.

Below, I copy a briefing on arrangements for rough sleepers, including over winter months, issued to Shropshire councillors.

Rough Sleeper Task Force Group

The Housing Options Team are the lead member of Rough Sleeper Task Force (RSTFG) which meets on a three-weekly basis to address those identified as rough sleepers. We rely on partner agencies and the public for intelligence and work with the task force members to ascertain vital information, such as the rough sleeper location and circumstances. The Housing Options Team commission a Rough Sleeper Outreach Services who are a key member of the RSTFG and are the front-line response to rough sleeping.

The aim of the multiagency task force is to:

Task force members collaborate to explore the intelligence provided in order to plan a front-line response to those identified as rough sleepers, with the aim of ending rough sleeping in Shropshire.

Rough sleeper referrals can be made in the following ways:

  • The Outreach Service: The Shrewsbury Ark currently provide the outreach service and will take direct referrals by telephone (01743 363 305) or through attendance at the day centre.
  • Streetlink: This is the national rough sleeper reporting service. More information can be found at http://www.streetlink.org.uk/
  • Housing Options Team: Rough Sleepers can be encourage to present as homeless to the team by accessing one of the Shropshire Council hubs, telephone (03456 789 005) or email (housingoptions@shropshire.gov.uk). Similarly, members of the public and other agencies can use these methods to connect a rough sleeper to the service.

Accommodation options throughout the Winter Months

Cold Weather Provision (CWP)

Shropshire Councils Housing Options Team offer an extended provision of accommodation over the Winter months for those who are rough sleeping. This provision offers stability and security and takes a customer-focussed approach.

All rough sleepers identified through the RSTFG (as above) are made one offer of accommodation over the winter period, offering stable accommodation with support for approximately 2 – 3 months (over the Winter period).

The extreme weather presents different opportunities to engage with rough sleepers and extensive work is carried out to explore a range of accommodation options in an attempt to find suitable, permanent accommodation away from street homelessness.

By committing to offering accommodation throughout the winter months, it will make it easier for support services to engage with the rough sleeper and hopefully secure more longer-term accommodation, continuing when CWP has ended.

Cold Weather Provision is offered between the middle of December and the end of February unless the temperatures drop below zero for 3 consecutive nights before then.

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP)

For those who refuse Cold Weather Provision or have been asked to leave the accommodation provided for them due to behaviour, Shropshire Council employs the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol. (SWEP). SWEP is utilised when the weather is at an extreme of three consecutive nights of zero degrees or below.

The SWEP response will be initiated by the Housing Options Team, who will work with the task force members to respond by making an offer of accommodation to those verified rough sleepers known to be out on the streets rough sleeping. This is short term provision, provided until the temperature increases above zero.

Further information and guidance surrounding SWEP can be found at http://www.homeless.org.uk/our-work/resources/guidance-on-severe-weather-emergency-protocol-swep-and-extended-weather-provision