A senior councillor has said Wrexham Council will do “everything we can to make sure people get the support they need during the winter”.
Earlier this year it was announced that a new homeless support strategy will be introduced after high levels of demand and nine people turned away from homeless shelters last December due to a lack of capacity. Two weeks ago Wrexham.com asked Wrexham Council for an update on what that strategy is, and when it will be put in place.
We also asked Wrexham Council if they were confident that the issues of people being turned away will not be repeated.
We did not get a reply to those questions. (UPDATE! We have now been sent a copy of the new Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) for Rough Sleepers dated October 2018 via this Word document: Policy Cold Weather Response (SWEP) for Rough Sleepers Version)
However yesterday Wrexham Council has published a an update on the topic that covered information on the processes that takes place, with advice from those with concerns or wishing to donate.
A total of 31 people presented themselves at Tŷ Nos – a night shelter run by Clwyd Alyn – on that particular night back in December, with the nine people turned away instead issued with hot drink and a sleeping bag.
Homeless update, Friday policy triggered early rather than waiting. Ty Nos fully occupied / St Johns. Was rough sleepers in doorways in town at weekend, asked if wanted help, but ‘happy to remain where they were’. Overnight 31 presentations at Ty Nos but 9 turned away as no space
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) December 12, 2017
The temperatures were so cold that a day after the above tweet from the council meeting with the update, councillors themselves were supplied with heaters in the Guildhall chamber to avoid a chill.
With the rules we cant take pictures and tweet them from the meeting, so couldnt show you the heaters. But we can view webcast in the meeting, then screengrab, then tweet that from inside meeting. Anyway, three of these heaters brought in to keep Cllrs warm. pic.twitter.com/FbYmh0lRz6
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) December 13, 2017
It was later confirmed that a review into the council’s Severe Weather Protocol (SWEP) was due to take place as a result of the incident of people being turned away.
The SWEP, also known as a protocol, procedure and plan (full PDF here) has the stated aim ‘to minimise the risk of damage to health or death as a result of overnight exposure to cold’.
It is triggered by the council whenever below zero temperatures are on the way. This also includes wind chill factor – which is commonly known as the “feels like” temperature.
Once the SWEP is triggered, outreach workers will do everything they can to get the message out to known service users who are sleeping rough, or visit areas where people are known to be sleeping rough.
Information can also be sent out via other local organisations, such as The Wallich and Clwyd Alyn.
The local housing options team will then try to accommodate all those rough sleepers who ask for help by directing them to Tŷ Nos. Even if they can’t stay at Tŷ Nos – for example, if all of the beds are already full – staff there will advise them where else they can go.
If the SWEP hasn’t been activated, Tŷ Nos will provide support and items such as gloves, blankets, sleeping bags and hot drinks when available to all those who approach the shelter for help.
Other options might include St John’s Church, which is currently offering a night shelter service by The Wallich, or a pilot led by Housing Justice Cymru. Or they might be sent to an alternative venue, and we would arrange transport.
Wrexham Council would then get in touch with service users the following morning for a further assessment, and to see if they can be referred to other services for further support. However Wrexham Council say some service users might not be accepted – for example, if they have a history of abuse towards service staff.
In this instance, the council say, the individual would be “encouraged to get the support they need, and find help for them where it’s available.”
Cllr David Griffiths, lead member for housing, said: “We, alongside our partner services and agencies, will do everything we can to make sure people get the support they need during the winter.
“We know this is an issue which is very close to people’s hearts, and teams within our housing department work tirelessly throughout the winter months to get help to those who need it.”
If you have concerns about someone sleeping rough, you can visit the StreetLink website, or download their app. The website allows users to alert agencies of people who might be sleeping rough, just by providing a few key details, which are then sent to local authorities or outreach services.
Alternatively, you can also get in touch with the council’s housing options team during office hours on 01978 292947, or the out-of-hours homelessness service on 01978 264240.
In an emergency, you should call the service needed on 999.
If you want to donate, items such as sleeping bags and blankets can be donated at The Foyer, on Crescent Road.