Due to harsh weather conditions, Oxford City Council is tonight (Tuesday 11 February) opening emergency beds for people experiencing rough sleeping.
The Council has a SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) for such conditions, activated when the Met Office predicts sub-zero temperatures and/or possible snowfall.
Councillor Linda Smith commented: “We’re using our discretion to activate SWEP and open emergency beds because the Met Office is forecasting a sub-zero ‘feels like’ temperature and the potential for snow tonight. We will review the situation tomorrow but do not currently expect emergency beds to stay open tomorrow night.”
The Council’s policy means that emergency beds are available anytime sub-zero temperatures are forecasted by the Met Office. The accommodation is available to anybody rough sleeping, including: “people who have no local connection to Oxford, no right to claim benefits or housing in the UK or who have refused offers of accommodation and support.”
The Council works in conjunction with OxSPOT (Oxford Street Population Outreach Team), a ST. Mungo’s outreach service for rough sleepers in Oxford. They provide accomodation at O’Hanlon House, run by Homelessness Oxfordshire, Floyds Row, run by OxSPOT, and in East Oxford, run by Aspire.
The council has recently opened new services for those who may be sleeping rough. The Somewhere Safe to Stay services offers beds for seven nights and a “right first time assessment” to try and find housing and support for those at risk of sleeping rough. They have also opened a shelter at Floyds Row running through the winter for verified rough sleepers.
Oxford has one of the highest population of rough sleepers per capita, higher only in Brighton, Bedford, Luton, Westminster and Camden.