SWEP: what it is and why it is important

SWEP stands for Severe Weather Emergency Protocol. It is a crisis response process that helps to increase support for people experiencing homelessness. This most often happens when cold weather warnings are issued.

SWEP is declared by local government when the temperature in the region falls below zero degrees celcius for three or more consecutive nights. But there are some variations to this criteria. The ‘feels like’ temperature is also considered, as well as additional factors like wind, rain and snow, which could pose health risks in temperatures exceeding zero.

Cold temperatures can be fatal for anyone sleeping rough, and people are especially at risk in the winter months. SWEP is a local humanitarian response, in which the focus is getting people sleeping rough off the streets, eliminating fatalities and reducing strain on emergency services. Local councils will increase outreach shifts and open up more emergency accommodation in order to achieve this.

How St Mungo’s helps during SWEP

St Mungo’s outreach workers have been out every night this winter to make it someone’s last night on the streets. When SWEP is announced, we increase these outreach shifts and target areas with a high density of rough sleeping. Getting people into accommodation is critical during winter, but ongoing support is also key.

Our outreach teams work directly on the streets, helping people experiencing homelessness access food and shelter. We also work closely with our clients following this, offering advice and support to help them rebuild their lives. Stories like Martin’s show how essential this support is to help someone turn their life around.

How you can help

If you see someone sleeping rough, you can contact StreetLink online or by calling 0300 500 0914. They will then forward the referral onto our outreach teams. Please note that StreetLink is not an emergency service. If you are concerned about someone’s health, please dial 999.

St Mungo’s are always looking for volunteers to support our life-saving work. If you can spare some time to help, take a look at our current volunteering opportunities.

The winter months see the highest demand for our services, and our work cannot happen without the generosity of our supporters. If you can, please make a donation, which could bring someone out of the cold and off the streets for good.

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