Norwich City Council has been blasted for its "inhumane" approach to supporting homeless people in bad weather. 

The Green Party has called for shelter to be provided more often - arguing the authority's procedure for offering emergency accommodation in extreme weather conditions is "out of date and puts lives at risk".

Norwich Evening News: The Greens have launched a public petition as part of a bid to get the city council to change its policyThe Greens have launched a public petition as part of a bid to get the city council to change its policy (Image: Newsquest)

The authority's Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) - a policy which allows anyone sleeping rough to access emergency accommodation and support - is currently activated when temperatures of zero degrees or lower are forecast for three consecutive nights. 

But Green councillors have argued this is insufficient, and have instead launched a petition calling for the city council to open emergency shelters before temperatures reach freezing, take into account rain, wind and snow when deciding when to open shelters and invest in council-owned temporary accommodation to ensure more people can be brought in from the streets permanently.

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Councillor Amanda Fox, who works as a homeless person’s support worker, said: “It’s inhumane that it takes three nights of freezing temperatures to get homeless people into shelter. 

"It’s unacceptable to leave a person outside in any extreme weather, for even one night.

"With the increased cost of living, any of us could find ourselves in this position, and it’s time for the council to update their policy and bring people safely indoors more often.” 

Norwich Evening News: Cllr Amanda Fox described the policy as inhumaneCllr Amanda Fox described the policy as inhumane (Image: Sonya Duncan)

The Labour-led city council hit back at the Greens, claiming to be "proud of our proactive approach to rough sleeping in Norwich."

A spokesman for the authority said: "Norwich City Council follows the current government guidelines to ensure rough sleepers are kept safe during extended periods of cold weather.

"Norwich is described as a flow city which results in a constant presentation of individuals who end up sleeping rough.  This results in services being stretched in order to meet the demand and standard that is expected in response to rough sleeping in the city.

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"This position is recognised through the Rough Sleeper Initiative and Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub initiative funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

"Specialist team members are on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide people with information, support and to help them to find accommodation.

"The location of the Hub is Recorder Road, just off Prince of Wales Road."

A city council-run winter shelter is also available six nights a week - closed on Thursdays - from November until March, regardless of the temperature. 

The shelter offers beds for rough sleepers and has this year been provided by the Cathedral of St John the Baptist and Norwich Central Baptist Church.

Norwich Evening News: The hub in Recorder RoadThe hub in Recorder Road (Image: Google Maps)

A spokesman for the Norwich-based homeless charity St Martins added: "Sleeping rough is dangerous, and in severe weather can be deadly.

"Our work involves street outreach, emergency assessment and accommodation to ensure people can be supported as quickly as possible.

"We work closely with local partners co-ordinate our support so people can access the help they need as quickly as possible."

Norwich has managed to maintain a relatively low number of rough sleepers compared to the national figures - with just seven people reported to be sleeping rough during October and November 2022.