Severe weather shelter for homeless people opens as winter bites

18 January 2016

The Mayor of London has partnered with St Mungo’s to open an emergency severe weather shelter this weekend as temperatures plummet across the capital.

The shelter opened in Harrow on Thursday (14th January) evening to help vulnerable rough sleepers off the streets and will stay open during the freezing weather to help anyone sleeping rough across London in what can be life-threatening temperatures. As well as a warm bed to stay in, people will be offered a hot shower, clean clothes, and hot food, whilst staff work to link them into services to find them more permanent accommodation to stop them returning to the streets.

This pan-London severe weather provision forms part of the Mayor’s wider work to tackle rough sleeping in the capital where he annually invests £9 million to run services, which include outreach, accommodation, and help to support homeless people into a permanent home, and jobs and skills training.  

The Mayor has appointed homeless charities St Mungo’s and Thames Reach to take a number of these essential services forward over the next three years with a programme of work that helps rough sleepers off the streets, including specialist services for non-UK nationals sleeping rough – a group that has significantly increased in recent years. Through the success of the Mayor’s flagship No Second Night Out scheme, the majority of people only spend one night sleeping on the streets.  

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP said: “With the arrival of freezing temperatures in the capital, it’s more important than ever that we ensure the most vulnerable people in the city are not sleeping rough. No one should ever have to call the streets their home and by prioritising my funding for key services and working with partners such as St Mungo’s and Thames Reach we are doing everything possible to turn around the lives of some of our most entrenched rough sleepers and support them into long term accommodation, health care, skills and employment.”

The Severe Weather Emergency shelter, run by St Mungo’s, will be in place throughout the winter whenever three consecutive nights of freezing temperatures are predicted.  The Mayor’s London Street Rescue outreach team, run by Thames Reach, will be finding and helping London’s homeless people survive the freezing cold weather tonight and over the weekend and a number of London boroughs and faith-based services will also provide emergency accommodation to help vulnerable local people during winter months. Longer term, St Mungo’s will continue to deliver the Mayor’s important CHAIN database that monitors numbers of people sleeping rough, plus  Clearing House, and will commence running the Mayor’s Reconnections service and Tenancy Sustainment Team North (TST) in April 2016.

Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s Chief Executive, said: "Rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous but when temperatures drop, people's lives are even more at risk. Health problems connected to exposure to the cold can exacerbate people's already poor physical and mental health. We will be working day and night while it's freezing to help as many people into shelter as soon as possible. Our partnership with the GLA will see us expand our work across the capital and support more people as they move away from homelessness and on with their lives. I would urge people concerned about someone rough sleeping to contact the national referral service StreetLink on 0300 500 0914 to help connect them with their local service.”

Thames Reach will take over responsibility for the Mayor’s TST South service which supports former rough sleepers who have been housed but face potentially losing their tenancy without support to live independently. They will also provide outreach for the Mayor’s London Street Rescue service in 18 London boroughs, putting out outreach teams 365 nights of the year to help people sleeping rough get off the streets.

Jeremy Swain, Chief Executive of Thames Reach said:  'The importance of this cold weather initiative cannot be understated. This is an opportunity to help some of London's most vulnerable people escape the freezing weather, come inside and from there to be given the long-term support that will mean they do not need to return to sleeping rough.  When the temperature plummets there is a real possibility of people dying on the street and I would urge Londoners to contact us if they are concerned about someone sleeping rough over this period'.

The Mayor recently successfully secured £30m in a joint fund with the Government for more hostel accommodation, including specialist accommodation for younger people at risk of sleeping rough and homeless veterans. The Mayor remains committed to working with government, local authorities and the voluntary sector to help ensure no one has to sleep rough on the capital’s streets.

Notes to editors

1.      The Mayor’s programme supports new and entrenched rough sleepers to leave the street.

2.      Other essential service for rough sleepers supported by the Mayor include Streetlink, the phoneline and website for the public to report rough sleepers they see, so that they can be found and linked into services.

3.      Thames Reach provide the Mayor’s pan-London outreach service and, from April, will also run the Mayor’s South Tenancy Sustainment Team, which helps supports rough sleepers in accommodation to rebuild their lives.

4.      St Mungo’s provide the Mayor’s CHAIN database of rough sleepers, the Clearing House (which allocates accommodation to former rough sleepers) and, from April, will also run the Mayor’s service for non-UK nationals and the North Tenancy Sustainment Team.