Councillor calls for hotels to house Shropshire market town rough sleepers instead of sending taxis
A councillor has called for hotels in market towns to be used to house homeless people during severe cold weather instead of uprooting them by taxi to and from a shelter in Shrewsbury.
Shropshire Council is on Tuesday evening expected to start implementing its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) to get rough sleepers off the freezing cold streets and give them a warm place to stay.
The council says it is open to hotels being used instead of taxis if the premises are happy to accept them.
The emergency protocol provides a night shelter in Shrewsbury but Ludlow councillor andy Boddington fears that rough sleepers outside of Shrewsbury would not want to take advantage of this.
Councillor Boddington, whose ward is just under an hour's taxi ride away from the night shelter in Castle Foregate, says he will be surprised if the scheme works, although he welcomes action to help homeless people.
"This is fairly straightforward for rough sleepers in Shrewsbury town centre but it is harder to access for those living on the streets in rural towns such as Ludlow," said Councillor Boddington.
"Rough sleepers in the market towns will be offered a taxi to and from Shrewsbury every day that SWEP operates."
He added: "I’d be surprised if this works. Rough sleepers are reluctant to leave the towns where they are based, unless they are just passing through.
"The timing doesn’t work well. For a 10pm arrival in Shrewsbury, a taxi would have to leave Ludlow just after 9pm. Most rough sleepers bed down at, or shortly after, nightfall. Are they really going to get out of bed for a taxi? Maybe, but I am doubtful.
"It would be better to provide local hotels, though not all accept rough sleepers.
"Rough sleepers are particularly vulnerable to severe cold as they often have poor nutrition and poor health. It is not just physical health. Severe weather can impact on mental health, which is rarely good in rough sleepers, even in good weather."
A decision on whether to operate SWEP will be made on a daily basis but the councillor expects it to last until the weekend.
Under SWEP, rough sleepers are given accommodation overnight in a night shelter in Shrewsbury from 10pm to 7am.
Those arriving will be offered hot drinks and snacks.
Shropshire Council’s rough sleeper team will be at the shelter until midnight and from 7am the next morning to direct people to the Shrewsbury Ark across the road where washing facilities, showers and breakfast will be available.
There will be two security officers from Taybar Security present throughout the night, with a third officer based nearby.
Councillor Dean Carroll, the council's cabinet member for growth, regeneration and housing, said: “In response to Councillor Boddington’s concerns I can confirm that we are happy to provide hotel accommodation in the local area rather than using taxis if there are hotels happy to accept our clients in the local area.
"The placements would only be on a night be night basis as we will assess the need for SWEP daily.”