Severe weather emergency protocol

published on 26 Nov 2019

Emergency centre

Salvation Army takes emergency action to protect homeless from the cold weather

The Salvation Army has launched its emergency shelter action plan to ensure homeless people are protected against harsh weather conditions. Rough sleeping has increased by 165 per cent since 2010 and the Church and charity is braced to offer support even as it prepares for its busy Christmas period.

A network of ‘pop up’ emergency shelters will join The Salvation Army’s network of year-round residential accommodation and outreach services for homeless people. The emergency shelters are part of the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) activated by local authorities and involving other churches, faith groups and charities. The SWEP provision stands ready to act as soon as the temperature drops to dangerous levels*.

The Salvation Army’s Assistant Territorial Director for Homelessness (North), Malcolm Page, explains: “If we don’t provide emergency shelter, people could die from exposure.

“The Salvation Army provides shelter and tailored support for people forced to sleep rough all year round but, during winter, we join our partners to put an extra layer of provision in place. We find that many people who normally bed down outside will accept help knowing that their normal shelter cannot protect them from the elements.”

There will be more than 250 SWEP spaces available in churches and Lifehouse so that rough sleepers can find a safe, warm place to stay for the night.

In Blackburn, The Salvation Army’s Bramwell House Lifehouse is joining forces with Darwen Borough Council’s Housing Needs and Child Action North West (CANW) Street Reach teams to provide emergency shelter. It first swung into action last winter and winter, when more than 4,000 hours of emergency accommodation were provided in Blackburn when it became too unsafe for rough-sleepers to be outdoors.

Bramwell House, on Heaton Street, will open its doors for emergency accommodation in the cold weather from 9 pm until 8.30 am from November 2019 to March 2020 to help make sure as many rough sleepers are brought in from the cold as possible.

Colin Mottershead, Bramwell House service manager, said: “The Salvation Army wants to ensure that no one spends the night on the street over winter. I hope everyone in need knows they can find shelter and hope this Christmas.

“Providing safe and warm shelter for the most vulnerable people is at the core of what we do and supporting the local authority in providing accommodation during extreme cold and other weather-related emergencies is a vital part of this work.

“However, while emergency shelters will provide food and warmth during crises, more must be done to help people deal with the problems that drove them to end up on the streets. These issues can be anything from fleeing abuse, relationship breakdowns, mental health struggles, loss of employment or addiction.”

The Salvation Army is calling for the next Government to:

  • Invest in supported housing which provides a home but also services to tackle the root causes of homelessness which can be anything from poor mental health, chronic illness or addiction.
  • Provide targeted investment so local authorities properly fund localised support for homelessness.
  • Ensure that more people can afford private sector rents by increasing the Local Housing Allowance so that people on benefits and low incomes are able to afford at least three in every ten rented homes.

The Salvation Army responds to people in crisis situations in communities across the British Isles, putting faith into practical action. Whether providing hot, reasonably priced dinners at lunch clubs for older people experiencing loneliness to offering debt advice, employment support and emergency food provision to people struggling with their finances, church teams focus on getting to the heart of what led people to crisis point and work with them as they get their lives back on track. This year, 25 of its churches across the British Isles will be taking part in night-shelter provision which is offered in addition to SWEP.