Emergency accommodation for people experiencing rough sleeping will be available again tonight as Oxford City Council has extended its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP).
The council activates SWEP on every night the Met Office forecasts freezing overnight temperatures. It also uses its discretion to do so 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 freezing spell.
The forecast is for freezing temperatures tonight, rising from tomorrow morning and staying above zero for the rest of this week. SWEP is therefore likely to close tomorrow morning (Tuesday 26 January).
Allocating SWEP rooms
The St Mungo’s outreach and assessment team (OxSPOT) is already working intensively with people experiencing rough sleeping in Oxford. OxSPOT will allocate SWEP rooms to people during the day and notify them where and when they need to go.
People who have not been allocated a SWEP room in advance can present at O'Hanlon House between 11 pm and midnight.
One of the SWEP venues is suitable for people with dogs and OxSPOT can also arrange free kennels if necessary. Kennels must be arranged in advance and are not available on the night.
SWEP and the pandemic
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 housing and support.
Until this winter SWEP beds were provided in shared sleeping spaces and government guidance says that councils can continue to do this where they believe SWEP can be provided safely. The council believes this is not a realistic option given national lockdown and the high risk of transmission in shared spaces, so people accessing SWEP are now offered their own room for the night.
Working with St Mungo’s, Aspire and Homeless Oxfordshire, the council has secured 25 rooms across three venues and contingency plans are in place to provide more if the need arises.
The council has offered safe accommodation to everyone experiencing rough sleeping in Oxford since March and people accessing SWEP are likely to have refused all previous offers of help, returned to the streets or be newly homeless.
The use of communal spaces will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.
“It’s forecast to be freezing again tonight so we’re keeping SWEP open for anyone who wants to come inside. It looks like it’s going to be warmer for the rest of the week so SWEP will probably close tomorrow morning. Whatever the weather, we will continue to offer shelter and support to people experiencing rough sleeping.”
Councillor Mike Rowley, cabinet member for affordable housing and housing the homeless
If you are concerned about someone experiencing rough sleeping
If you are concerned about someone experiencing rough sleeping, you can contact OxSPOT on 07590 862049 or by emailing Outreach.Oxford@mungos.org.
OxSPOT is not an emergency service, but it will follow up all calls and emails as soon as possible.
You can also report a rough sleeper through the StreetLink website or call StreetLink on 0300 500 0914.
If you think someone’s life is in immediate danger, call 999.