Sunderland weather: How Sunderland's Severe Weather Emergency Protocol can help homeless in the city this winter

As Sunderland and the wider North East fall victim to sub-zero temperatures, the city council has plans in place to support those sleeping on the streets this winter.

Like other local authorities across England, Sunderland City Council has a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) in place during the winter months to protect and support people considered homeless from life-threatening weather conditions, providing emergency accommodation.

According to the charity Homeless Link, there is no single definition of severe weather. Instead, this covers any conditions that increase the harm to those sleeping rough – including severe cold, rain, snow, wind and even heat.

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Cllr Kevin Johnson, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Dynamic City, said Sunderland’s current SWEP began in November 2022.

He said: “Every year for homelessness provision we have a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) from the beginning of November to the end of March.

“This aims to prevent rough sleeping during colder weather and when night-time temperatures go below zero SWEP provides emergency accommodation for rough sleepers. This accommodation is provided until the severe weather has improved and during this time staff will work to move people on to more appropriate accommodation.”

The SWEP is active and has helped 27 people into accommodation so far this winter, the city council confirmed to the Echo.

Councils and their partners in various areas of the country work together to provide emergency accommodation during periods of extreme weather. Though there is no statutory obligation to do this – unless a person is considered homeless and in priority need of assistance – there is a humanitarian obligation for authorities to prevent deaths and serious harm on the streets, Homeless Link added.

Temperatures have been below freezing in Sunderland.

How to help in Sunderland

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If you are concerned about someone who is homeless or sleeping rough in the Sunderland local authority area, contact the Housing Options team on 0191 520 551 or 0800 234 6084, including outside of office hours. You can also use the Streetlink app online here to provide an alert about someone over the age of 18 who is sleeping rough.

If someone is unwell or in distress, call the emergency services on 999.