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, initially from tonight (Friday 26 November) until Monday morning (29 November).
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 accommodation and support.
Before the pandemic SWEP was provided in shared sleeping spaces but the need to do so safely during Covid restrictions meant that people were offered their own room for the night last winter. The council intends to deliver SWEP on the same basis again, following positive feedback from people using the service.
Working with St Mungo’s and Homeless Oxfordshire, the council has secured a minimum of 30 bed spaces across two venues in central Oxford. This includes 25 self-contained rooms and if it is necessary to use communal areas they will not be used by more than one person.
Contingency plans are in place to provide more beds if the need arises.
Severe weather forecast
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 council is activating SWEP on a discretionary basis on Friday and Saturday night because the ‘feels like’ temperature is forecast to be zero or below, with the possibility of sleet or snow. The forecast for Sunday is for sub-zero overnight temperatures.
The council will decide whether or not to extend SWEP on Monday morning. The current forecast suggests that SWEP will close after the weekend.
Allocating SWEP beds
The St Mungo’s outreach and assessment team will allocate SWEP beds to people during the day and notify them where and when they need to go.
People who have not been allocated a SWEP bed in advance will be able to present at O'Hanlon House between 11 pm and midnight.
One of the SWEP venues is suitable for people with dogs and St Mungo’s can also arrange free kennels if necessary. Kennels must be arranged in advance and are not available on the night.
“We believe that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and SWEP can offer a vital lifeline for people at risk during the winter. When people come inside during freezing weather it also gives us the chance to offer them the support they might need to leave the streets behind for good.
“We’re using our discretion to activate SWEP on Friday and Saturday night because the Met Office forecast is for freezing ‘feels like’ temperatures, with the possibility of sleet or snow. The forecast for Sunday is for sub-zero overnight temperatures. We will review the situation on Monday.”
Councillor Diko Blackings Walcott, cabinet member for affordable housing, housing security and housing the homeless