EMERGENCY overnight accommodation has been made available for rough sleepers in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole as the council have activated their Severe Weather Emergency Protocol.

The current spell of freezing overnight temperatures threatens to put the health of those sleeping on the streets at serious risk.

BCP Council announced via their Twitter account that their Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) response “is in force”, with freezing overnight temperatures predicted for the rest of the week.

Rough sleeping is always dangerous but when temperatures drop below freezing, it is considered life threatening.

Councillor Robert Lawton, BCP Council Portfolio holder for homes said: “BCP Council and our homelessness partners have activated SWEP, our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol.

“As temperatures are expected to fall below zero over the next few nights, we will be working together with our St Mungo’s outreach team to offer emergency shelter to anybody sleeping rough in Bournemouth, Christchurch or Poole.”

The street outreach programme aims to ensure that vulnerable people are protected and provided for during severe weather.

Night-time temperatures will struggle to reach above freezing for the remainder of the week, with the mercury expected to drop to minus-two degrees in the Bournemouth area on Saturday night. However, it will feel like minus five.

With SWEP now activated, St Mungo’s outreach team, commissioned by BCP Council, will work to provide emergency overnight spaces for rough sleepers.

Whilst in previous year rough sleepers had been supported at both St Stephen’s Church in Bournemouth and the United Reform Church in Poole, the council say this is not possible this year due to the risk of spreading the coronavirus in communal shelters.

BCP Council have said that, whilst they are focused on providing a short-term solution to the issue, they are also looking to find "longer term housing solutions" to those who are supported by the protocol.

“This work does not happen in isolation, and contingency plans are made for those known to be rough sleeping to maximise the effectiveness and reach of the support offered when SWEP is active.

“This work is also used as a way to try and find longer term housing solutions for those accommodated under the protocol and prevent a return to the street wherever possible.

“When SWEP provisions are active, please contact our Outreach Team which can be contacted directly on 01202 315962 if you know of somebody in need of emergency accommodation.”

Posting on Twitter, YMCA Bournemouth said: "As part of our efforts to help BCP council assist rough sleepers when the weather turns cold (under the Severe Weather Emergency protocol) we are offering a free emergency bed and breakfast to someone sleeping rough. People sleeping rough die in cold weather."