Oxford City Council has confirmed arrangements for offering emergency beds to people experiencing rough sleeping, as part of its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP).
Working with St Mungo’s and Homeless Oxfordshire, the Council has secured a minimum of 30 bed spaces across two venues in central Oxford, including 25 self-contained rooms.
Until last winter, SWEP beds were provided in shared spaces, but the Council decided not to continue with this approach due to difficulty in making it Covid-safe.
Last year prolonged freezing spells and low temperatures meant that SWEP was activated on 48 nights, beating the previous record of 47 nights in 2012/13.
Matt Rudd, Regional Manager for St Mungo’s in Oxford, said: ‘Our outreach teams work with people who are rough sleeping on a daily basis and are in regular contact, working hard behind the scenes to identify suitable accommodation all year round. SWEP is an emergency response to prevent people from dying or developing serious health conditions during extreme weather.
‘This is a temporary situation, to ensure that people have access to warm, safe and appropriate accommodation, however we also look to ensure that our clients remain in the accommodation, in order for us to arrange move-on accommodation and prevent a return to a period of rough sleeping. Sleeping rough is harmful and dangerous at any time of the year and we would ask anyone who is concerned about a person they see rough sleeping to use the Streetlink app or website and make a referral.’
Cllr Diko Blackings, Cabinet Member for affordable housing, housing security and housing the homeless, added: ‘SWEP relies on staff and volunteers in Oxford’s homelessness services stepping up and taking on extra shifts on top of their day jobs, and I’m grateful to St Mungo’s and Homeless Oxfordshire for helping us to provide emergency beds during severe weather this winter. St Mungo’s is working intensively with people experiencing rough sleeping and will allocate SWEP rooms during the day, telling people how to access the service and where and when to go.’
Photo by Jon Tyson