21 March: emergency beds open for people experiencing rough sleeping

Published: Friday, 20th March 2020

Oxford City Council is opening emergency beds for people experiencing rough sleeping tomorrow night (Saturday 21 March) and keeping them open for the rest of the weekend.

The council has used its discretion to activate the severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) on Saturday night because the Met Office forecasts sub-zero ‘feels like’ temperatures. The forecast for Sunday night is for the temperature to hit zero.

This means that beds will open for anyone who wants to come inside.

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 council will review the situation on Monday (23 March). The current Met Office forecast suggests that SWEP beds will remain open beyond the weekend.

Coronavirus and allocating SWEP beds

The outreach and assessment team (OxSPOT) allocates SWEP spaces to people during the day and notifies them where and when they need to go. This means that they can go straight to their SWEP venue and do not have to attend O’Hanlon House first – as was the case in previous years.

OxSPOT is assessing the risk of coronavirus in discussion with people wanting an emergency space and there will be further screening when they arrive at their SWEP venue. The council is looking to provide alternative accommodation if someone is self-isolating or displaying symptoms of coronavirus on arrival.

People who have not been allocated a SWEP space in advance can present at O'Hanlon House between 11 pm and midnight.

“We’re using our discretion to activate emergency beds on Saturday night because of a sub-zero ‘feels like’ forecast by the Met Office. We’ll review where we stand on Monday morning and at this stage it looks likely that beds will remain open beyond the weekend.

“We’ve put in plans to keep people experiencing rough sleeping and SWEP venue staff safe during the coronavirus emergency, and OxSPOT is screening people in advance. We are looking to provide alternative accommodation if someone is already self-isolating or displaying symptoms of coronavirus when they arrive at their SWEP venue.”

Councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for leisure and housing

Activating emergency beds

Until this winter, the council activated SWEP on the first night of a Met Office forecast the overnight temperature would fall to zero or below on three or more consecutive nights – in common with most other councils.

SWEP beds are now 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.

Free kennels

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