Oxford City Council has activated its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) and is opening emergency beds for people experiencing rough sleeping this weekend.
Beds will open for anyone who wants to come inside from tomorrow night (Friday 17 January) until Monday morning (20 January) 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.
The activation of SWEP means that the new assessment hub and shelter in Floyds Row will provide extra emergency beds on only its second night of operation. Floyds Row opened its doors to people at risk of or experiencing rough sleeping today (Thursday 16 January).
Activating emergency beds
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 sub-zero overnight temperatures.
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 in the middle of a prolonged freezing spell.
The council is activating SWEP on Friday night on a discretionary basis because the ‘feels like’ temperature is forecast to be zero or below from around 9pm on Friday into Saturday morning.
The council will decide whether to extend or close SWEP on Monday morning (20 January).
“We’re activating SWEP and opening emergency beds for anyone experiencing rough sleeping because the Met Office is forecasting sub-zero temperatures on Saturday and Sunday nights. We’re using our discretion to open SWEP on Friday night because of a freezing ‘feels like’ overnight forecast.
“OxSPOT will allocate spaces to people in advance and our new assessment hub and shelter in Floyds Row will be providing emergency beds on only its second night of operation.
“We will review the situation on Monday morning.”
Councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for leisure and housing
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.
People who have not been allocated a SWEP space in advance can present at O'Hanlon House between 11 pm and midnight.
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.
More information about SWEP
Detailed information about SWEP is at www.oxford.gov.uk/swep