Oxford City Council is opening emergency beds for people experiencing rough sleeping tonight (Tuesday 11 February).
The council has used its discretion to activate the severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) because the Met Office forecasts sub-zero ‘feels like’ temperatures and the potential for snow.
This means that beds will open for anyone who wants to come inside tonight. The Met Office forecast for the rest of the week is for milder overnight temperatures and the council does not currently expect beds to remain open after tonight.
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.
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.
“We’re using our discretion to activate SWEP and open emergency beds because the Met Office is forecasting a sub-zero ‘feels like’ temperature and the potential for snow tonight. We will review the situation tomorrow but do not currently expect emergency beds to stay open tomorrow night.
“The outreach team (OxSPOT) and day services are telling people experiencing or at risk of rough sleeping that emergency beds are available tonight. If you’re concerned about somebody sleeping rough please contact OxSPOT on 01865 243229 or email [email protected]. OxSPOT is not an emergency service and will follow up all calls or emails as quickly as possible.”
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