As the nights get longer and colder, Oxford City Council has confirmed how it will offer emergency beds to people experiencing rough sleeping this winter.
The council activates its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) during freezing weather. SWEP is emergency accommodation for anyone experiencing rough sleeping – including people who have no right to claim benefits or housing in the UK or who have refused offers of accommodation and support.
The council will activate SWEP on every night the Met Office forecasts freezing overnight temperatures. It will also use its discretion to open emergency beds in other severe weather conditions.
These can include snow on the ground, sub-zero ‘feels like’ temperatures or a warmer night in the middle of a prolonged freezing spell.
Working with a range of partners, the council has secured a minimum of 30 bed spaces across a range of venues in central and east Oxford.
Contingency plans are in place to provide more beds if the need arises.
During the past two winters, anyone wanting a SWEP bed was given their own room for the night. There has been an increase in the number of people experiencing rough sleeping this year, together with the loss of ‘everyone in’ venues like Oxford YHA.
This means some shared sleeping spaces will need to be used. Where this occurs, it will be undertaken in line with government guidance on running such spaces.
The St Mungo’s outreach and assessment team engage with people experiencing rough sleeping intensively and on a daily basis. St Mungo’s will allocate SWEP beds to people during the day and notify them where and when they need to go.
People who have not been allocated a SWEP bed in advance will be able to present at O’Hanlon House between 11.00pm and midnight.
One of the SWEP venues is suitable for people with dogs, and St Mungo’s can also arrange free kennels if necessary. Kennels must be arranged in advance and are not available on the night.
“We believe that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford, and SWEP can offer a vital lifeline for people at risk during freezing winter weather. SWEP also gives us the chance to offer them the support they might need to leave the streets behind for good.
“SWEP relies on people in Oxford’s homelessness services stepping up and taking on extra shifts on top of their day jobs, and I’m grateful for everyone helping us to deliver emergency beds this winter.
“St Mungo’s works 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.
“If you are concerned about someone experiencing rough sleeping, you can contact St Mungo’s on 07590 862049 or by emailing Outreach.Oxford@mungos.org.”
—Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing