Cherwell

Oxford University gives squatters five days to vacate temporary homeless shelter

A group of around 20 homeless people and volunteers who have been occupying an old power station owned by Oxford University have been given five days to leave the building, after a possession order was served at court this morning.

The group—Osney Open House—had moved to the power station after being ordered to leave an old VW garage owned by Wadham College, so that it could start pre-demolition work in order to build student accommodation. They have been living in the new site for around 10 days.

The court granted Oxford University an Interim Possession Order (IPO), which ordered the squatters to leave the former power station by Sunday 12 March.

In court, a representative for Osney Open House called for the IPO to be deferred to Monday 14 March.

“Deferring the IPO would prevent the unnecessary and involuntary criminalisation of 21 people, many of whom are beginning to find their feet again following periods of extreme instability.

“These 21 individuals have evidently already experienced circumstances of great difficulty and complexity. We hope that you agree it would be hugely detrimental to the interests of these individuals and indeed the local Oxford community for them to be made homeless tomorrow,” they said.

The squatters say that the part of the building being occupied has been “unoccupied for seven years.” Oxford University have previously stated that the old power station is used by staff for storage purposes, and have raised concern over the safety of the building.

Miranda Shaw, a local resident and Osney Open House volunteer, said: “It’s ridiculous that people are still on the streets in one of the richest cities in the world with so many empty buildings. The University owns so much of the city centre. It would be incredible if the University could show leadership in the face of corrosive cuts at both a national and city level. We are facing a social emergency and this is now the second time that Oxford University has closed its doors. We hope that this will change in the future.”

A University of Oxford spokesperson said: “We requested the court to extend the time for serving the order so that the occupiers are given a few days to pack up their belongings without compromising our right to reclaim the property. The court agreed that this was “appropriate and proportionate” and extended the order until Sunday (12 March). We have been given to understand that the occupiers will be vacating over the weekend.

“Homelessness is a serious issue in Oxford, and we will continue to work with local stakeholders on this matter. Osney Open House have made a serious point by drawing attention to this issue, and we hope to continue working with them. In particular, we would like to see how we can work with and support local homeless charities in the future.”