Oxford City Council has activated its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) for people experiencing rough sleeping.
This means that emergency beds will open for anyone who wants to come inside from tonight (Friday 29 November) until Monday morning (2 December) in the first instance.
SWEP is emergency accommodation for anyone experiencing 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.
Until this year, the council – in common with most other councils – activated SWEP on the first night of a Met Office forecast that the overnight temperature would fall to zero or below on three or more consecutive nights.
This winter SWEP beds are available on every night the Met Office forecasts a sub-zero overnight temperature.
The council also uses 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 during a prolonged freezing spell.
The council is activating SWEP over the weekend on a discretionary basis due to sub-zero “feels like” forecasts on all three nights.
The actual temperature is currently forecast to hit zero around 6 am on Saturday and again from midnight on Sunday into Monday morning.
The council will decide whether to extend or close SWEP on Monday morning (2 December).
Allocating SWEP beds
In previous years people would have to present at O’Hanlon House between 9pm and 9:30pm before they knew where their bed for the night was.
The outreach and assessment team, OxSPOT, is now allocating SWEP spaces to people during the day and notifying them where and when they need to go. This means that they can go straight to their SWEP venue and will not necessarily have to attend O’Hanlon House.
Free kennels are available for anyone with a dog or dogs who wants to use a SWEP bed. These must be arranged with OxSPOT in advance and are not available on the night.
Referrals from neighbouring districts
The council is working with neighbouring district councils to ensure that everyone in Oxfordshire who needs an emergency bed can access one. The districts can refer people sleeping rough to SWEP beds in Oxford if they are unable to accommodate them in their areas.
“Given the Met Office overnight temperature forecast we’re opening emergency beds for anyone experiencing rough sleeping who wants to come inside. SWEP will open tonight and will stay open until Monday morning, when we’ll review the situation. I’d like to thank the outreach team and SWEP providers in advance for the hard work they put in to help people come in from the cold.”
Stephen Clarke, head of housing services
Detailed information about SWEP is at www.oxford.gov.uk/swep