Exclusive: Reports of Eastbourne street sleepers left in cold despite emergency weather protocol being in place

A homeless charity has spoken to More Radio after claiming ten street sleepers were left outside while Eastbourne’s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) was in place.

Trudy Hampton, chair of ‘Warming Up The Homeless’, said that they were trying to refer homeless and rough sleepers to the service between 7.30pm and 10pm last Monday (November, 18), after SWEP was triggered in Eastbourne.

After previous problems, she contacted the borough council on Monday for instruction and was told that after 5pm there would be a dedicated number for all SWEP enquiries.

The council said they did not recognise the events described by the charity, although they are agreeing to meet with the organisation.

The charity claimed that, on Monday evening, they contacted the number and gave details of ten people who had not previously managed to find shelter, or who may not have been aware that SWEP was activated.

They were told to expect a call back.

After three and a half hours, Trudy said they were not phoned back and they were given no information on where they could send the people.

She phoned the number back and the call handler said that out of the ten people they had, they could house two overnight, but they would have to get to St. Leonards.

Trudy said there was apparently nowhere in Eastbourne, and the street sleepers were expected to get there on their own:

“When street homeless people have got limited cash, or no cash, then they’re not going to be able to get a train ticket, go to St. Leonards, stay the night and come back again.

“They can’t afford it, so they didn’t go.”

The charity said they offered to approach the Eastbourne venues themselves, but the call handler was not able to give them the names of the venues they had tried to contact.

After questioning the call handler, Trudy said that they admitted they were unprepared:

“She’d had no communication from the council, no instruction, she didn’t know how much to spend, she didn’t know where to send people and she didn’t know how many people to send, so she’d had no instruction from the council at all.”

Eastbourne Borough Council have responded to these claims:

“We do not recognise the events described by Warming up the Homeless.

“SWEP was activated in Eastbourne on the morning of Monday November 18 and the out-of-hours service was alerted as part of the communications sent out to partners.

“Our social media platforms were also updated so the public was aware.

“This year we are running our SWEP provision through the Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) to ensure that the message about SWEP is reaching everyone we can help.

“On Monday the council’s Rough Sleeping Initiative workers undertook assertive outreach throughout the town and we supported 10 rough sleepers into accommodation through our SWEP provision.

“Our RSI and Housing teams are working tirelessly to secure this.

“As the statutory authority, we work extremely hard, and have put considerable effort into making SWEP a safe and successful process.

“The council has commissioned a dedicated team of multi-disciplinary specialists and outreach workers to work with rough sleepers through commissioned day centre provision and within the community.

“Targeted sessions are undertaken to advise them of the SWEP process and what we will do to help.

“We are planning to have a meeting with Warming up the Homeless as we are keen to continue to work with voluntary services to assist us to carry out our statutory duty to homeless people.”


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