Balliol introduces Oxford’s first homelessness representative

The new officer will publicise volunteering and collect donations for Turl Street Homeless Action

Balliol has voted to elect an Oxford JCR’s first homelessness officer to “empower homeless people” in the city.

The new officer will be mandated to collect food, sanitary items, and other donations for a local volunteer group, Turl Street Homeless Action, and publicise volunteering opportunities.

It follows the City Council’s decision to extend the severe weather emergency protocal (SWEP) for rough sleepers because of sub-zero temperatures.

Proposers of the idea, backed by the Oxford SU campaign On Your Doorstep, said the new position would also “create uninterrupted pressure on college governing bodies” to improve their support for the homeless.

The motion, proposed by third-year Simran Uppal, read: “This JCR believes that it has a duty towards its local community, especially when it is in crisis (and) we should do as much as we can to empower and help homeless people.”

Following Balliol’s decision, students at Wadham also passed a motion at its first reading to create a homelessness officer, though their responsibilities may be added to the mandates of existing officers.

Ray Williams, who seconded the Wadham motion, said: “At the last Oxford SU elections there was disagreement over whether homelessness and the inequality in our city was a “student issue”. Motions like this are going around JCRs across Oxford because it 100 per cent is.”

Although many colleges have charities or communities officers, this is the first time an Oxford college will have a position solely dedicated homelessness.

On Your Doorstep is hoping to expand the scheme to other JCRs. Alex Kumar, an On Your Doorstep activist, said: “This country is in the midst of a crisis of homelessness and rough sleeping, and Oxford’s most vulnerable are suffering deeply.

“As members of the University and Colleges that dominate this city, we have a responsibility to those who make their beds on our streets and even on our very doorsteps.

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“I hope that JCRs and MCRs across Oxford will take inspiration from this.

“We can only fight this crisis if enough of us are prepared to take a stand.”