Once again this year Fair Housing for Frome have been supporting Mendip District Council and Elim Connect with the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol. This was formerly known as Zero Nights in Frome but is now part of a much larger, national initiative to provide a warm refuge for rough sleepers in severe weather scenarios. 

The program is triggered when the overnight temperature is forecast to drop below zero for 3 consecutive nights and if this is deemed to be the case the protocol is instigated.  The reason that 3 nights is chosen is because it has been determined by health care professionals that the cumulative effect of sub zero nights that is more likely to lead to serious health issues or even loss of life and it is the 3rd night where they see the bulk of these issues. It’s worth noting that it’s not just cold weather that can trigger the protocol, any adverse weather event such as torrential rain, wind or snow can also trigger the scheme.

By providing a warm, dry bed for the night together with a hot meal and a shower rough sleepers get the chance to have good nights sleep and also speak to someone at Elim about their situation and hopefully get assistance.  Fair Housing for Frome assist by liaising with Frome Town Council, Mendip District Council and Elim Connect but also in providing volunteers to assist for the whole night in providing food and hot drinks as well as a socially distant chat before ‘lights out’. Sleeping bags and blankets are provided. Given the pressure on the Health Care system at the moment and the NHS in particular we feel that this is a service that no only helps the homeless but also takes a little pressure off the NHS. 

Regrettably this year we are not able to run the ‘drop in’ facility that ran in previous years and was really successful focusing on those who wanted a hot drink and cup soup but not necessarily a bed for the night. The need to be socially distant due to Covid has meant this is not possible this year given the confined spaces that we have. Hopefully in years to come we will be able to reinstate this to run alongside the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol.

The first time this has been triggered in Frome this year was from the 6th to 10th of January.  It has also been triggered by the storm of 19/20 January. Fair housing for Frome worked with Frome Town council, Mendip District Council and Elim Connect to make the provision available in Frome. This year it was harder than normal to set up given the current covid restrictions and concerns.

Mendip District Council worked closely with Public Health England and Elim Connect to set up protocols that protected staff, volunteers and the rough sleepers, we are delighted we could offer assistance as well .

As it turned out although the SWEP service was used during this period it was deemed easier and safer to provide shelter with Elim Connect in one of their own facilities rather than in Frome. The main reason being that the numbers requiring the service were low enough that it was possible and easier to accommodate people safely elsewhere. However as a trial run it was a good introduction should the service be needed later in the winter

It is good to know that should the facility be needed again we are ready and able to assist where we can and given the forecast over the next few weeks it may well be that the facility is needed. If this is the case notices will be issues on the official sites as well as social media. Fair Housing For Frome will also publicise this once we get alerted.

We are thankful to the volunteers in Frome who offered to spend the night away from home to enable this service to run, it is a big commitment in the current climate and we hope that these efforts and those of Elim Connect and Mendip District Council help those sleeping rough to make a step towards a better time.

Should any one feel they can assist should the facility be needed again please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at info@fairhousingforfrome.org.uk

Steve Tanner – Development Worker – Fair Housing for Frome

Photo © Mark Brookes

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