Oxford City Council has pledged additional support for rough sleepers amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

The City Council announced on Wednesday that it intended to provide hotel rooms for up to 100 people to support those either sleeping on the street or in communal hostel spaces.

So far, 21 hotel rooms have been secured by the council for Oxford’s homeless population. In a plea to hotels and other organisations for help with accommodation demands, Councillor Linda Smith said: “Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and we’re working with outreach, supported housing and day services to protect vulnerable people on our streets and in supported housing from the coronavirus.”

A further 60 beds are being urgently sought through a range of options to provide self-contained accommodation for the entirety of Oxford’s homeless population.

These new measures follow Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of a nation-wide lockdown in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Last week the Communities Secretary announced a £3.2 million emergency fund to assist Britain’s rough sleepers to self-isolate and protect them from the spread of coronavirus. Oxford City Council has secured up to £32,250 from the government’s nationwide fund to cover the cost of supporting Oxford City’s homeless population.

Support includes self-contained accommodation, a measure which came into force over the weekend when the Council activated severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) to open emergency beds for rough sleepers following the Met Office’s forecast of sub-zero temperatures.

The City Council have stated their intention to move from communal shelter schemes, such as the Floyd’s Row Centre which partially opened earlier this year, to self-contained spaces to accommodate homeless people currently sleeping on the streets or in shared accommodation.

As part of these measures, Oxford Street Population Outreach Team (OxSPOT) has closed its assessment service in Bonn Square to allow for a stronger outreach presence on the streets, providing rough sleepers with information on the symptoms of COVID-19 and advice of steps to take if individuals believe they have the virus.

The City Council have further announced that they will be working with The Porch day centre to provide daytime support for rough sleepers in self-contained accommodation. In line with the government’s social distancing measures, these day services are planned to include a mobile service to deliver meals and essential supplies for rough sleepers.

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