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SWEP Update

Colchester Borough Homes triggered the SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency protocol) provision on 4 January 2019 and the provision remains in place until such time as the weather improves.

Colchester Borough Homes Director of Housing Karen Loweman explains: "The Severe weather provision is not a venue, it is a process whereby we provide accommodation for those people who are rough sleeping and who accept the accommodation that we offer.

"In Colchester this year we have supported a number of rough sleepers in to accommodation, or helped them to return to accommodation that was available to them.  Our key aim is to support people with longer term solutions.

"People who are sleeping rough generally have complex issues, a bed space for a night or two when it is cold, will not resolve the problems and we are working toward longer term solutions.

"We have two outreach workers who will support those who are willing to engage with them, and help them to access  services and a place to stay.

"There are people rough sleeping who do not wish to engage with services. Where this is the case the outreach workers co-ordinate with other local agencies to consider best interventions, to meet the needs of the individual and the public's safety.

"The complex nature of rough sleeping means that it is not a simple matter of removing people who are rough sleeping in to a temporary bed space.  Drug and Alcohol addiction and Mental health issues often prevent people accepting support, and can lead to them preferring to stay out and beg rather than come in doors. Risk assessments are essential to reduce risk to others in the accommodation, staff and volunteers.

"Inevitably, all accommodation available has some rules to ensure the health and safety of those who live, work and volunteer in it.  Some people will choose not to take up accommodation because of the rules or their own habits, which have led to an entrenched lifestyle engaging in daily begging which they find difficult to break.

"In Colchester we work with a number of key organisations such as Emmaus, Open Road, The Colchester Night Shelter, YMCA, Beacon House and the Colchester rough sleeper group.  This network provides a wealth of opportunity and experience to support people to come off the street and into accommodation.

"Whilst the SWEP arrangement is in place, we have some additional flexible accommodation where people can come in from the cold, and we hope engage with support and services available to reduce risk to their health and well-being.

"In Colchester this year we have not had accommodation available that people can self-refer into. All referrals for accommodation are assessed initially by the outreach team.  This is important to reduce risk and ensure accommodation is appropriate.

"By getting to know and understand the individuals the outreach work can begin to solve the issues that caused  homelessness and put in place plans to help.

"If anyone has a concern regarding a rough sleeper they should contact Street Link www.streetlink.org.uk via the app or if you consider the person needs urgent medical attention, or you believe that they are under 18, please call 999.  The outreach workers will respond to all alerts."