BY YANN TEAR
A charity for homeless people is on standby ahead of an expected cold snap later this month after signing up to a London-wide emergency programme for the first time.
The 999 Club in Deptford currently offers space for up to 30 people a night at its centre in Deptford Broadway, but only those eligible for benefits are usually admitted to the night shelter.
This year, however, the 26-year-old club will participate in the capital’s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), which is triggered by the Mayor of London’s office once the temperature drops below freezing.
Those who are granted admission will be given a sleeping bag and bedding, a hot dinner, breakfast, access to showers, laundry, IT facilities and housing, as well as benefits and employment support.
During the time that SWEP is active, people do not need to have a local connection or to have recourse to public funds in order to qualify for a place in the emergency shelter.
SWEP is both a local council level and a pan-London initiative which aims to ensure no-one needs to sleep on the streets during the coldest days of the year.
The system is now coordinated by the Mayor of London’s office in conjunction with the homeless charity St Mungos, which in the borough of Lewisham provides additional spaces in its shelters in Spring Gardens – for men – and Pagnall Street – for women.
Once local facilities are full, people can be referred to other emergency shelters in London. According to the latest report from Shelter, the charity for homeless people, Lewisham ranks 12th in England for its level of homelessness.
A total of 6,717 people were recorded as being homeless in the past collation of statistics – one in 45 people living in the borough, which is up from one in 49 people last year.
Spokeswoman for the 999 Club, Lesley Walker, said: “This is the first year we have participated in the emergency protocol and we are very happy to offer this extra help at such a vital time of year.
“We provide a warm welcome for people who are often ignored, isolated or stigmatised. “We empower them to gain the confidence, skills and support needed to transform their lives.”
As well as offering the emergency accommodation, the club is reminding members of the public that they can do their bit by making donations and alerting homeless organisations to rough sleepers by logging on to www.streetlink.org.uk.
For more information, or to donate to the 999 Club, please go to www.999club.org.