Mon, 26 Feb 2018
WEST Berkshire Council has triggered its emergency weather protocol and pledged to help the homeless find a bed for the night as temperatures continue to plummet.
On the front page of last week's Newbury Weekly News, the local authority was asked what it was planning to do to accommodate rough sleepers when the town's homeless shelter closes at the end of the week.
The latest Government figures suggest that the estimated number of rough sleepers in the district has increased by 43 per cent.
At 5.10pm today, the council issued a press release which urged anyone without a bed for tonight to visit the council offices for support.
However, as the council's offices are already closed, the advice is to now contact the emergency duty team on 01344 786543 instead.
The council initially implemented this SWEP, which exceeds the statutory obligations placed on local authorities some years ago to ensure that the district’s most vulnerable residents are given the support they need throughout the cold weather period.
As a result of this protocol, rough sleepers are able to access warm, safe accommodation, either at Two Saints or elsewhere depending on demand, as well as wider support and advice where appropriate.
This targeted intervention helps the small number of people who are not normally eligible for services, choose to sleep rough or have previously refused support from housing services.
This winter West Berkshire Council first activated its severe weather plan on November 28 2017 and it has been in place for the majority of the time since.
Councillor Hilary Cole, West Berkshire Council’s executive member for housing, said: “Throughout the year the council is working extremely hard to reduce homelessness and support people who sleep rough.
"We’re absolutely committed to ensuring that no one has to sleep outside; it is one of our priorities. This becomes even more important when it is extremely cold as it is now.
"West Berkshire Council’s severe weather emergency protocol will remain active for as long as necessary to make sure that all rough sleepers who want a warm, safe place are found somewhere to stay.
“People become homeless for many reasons but when they do it’s important they know that help is available to get them back on their feet.
"They do not have to do it alone as there are many services locally to listen to them, encourage them and give them practical support to begin rebuilding their lives.
"I would encourage anyone who needs help, or knows someone who needs help, to get in touch with the council’s housing team.”
Anyone without anywhere to stay tonight should contact the council’s emergency duty team on the number above.