For the second time this winter, Oxford City Council has activated its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) for people experiencing rough sleeping.
This means that emergency beds will open tonight (Tuesday 21 December) for anyone who wants to come inside.
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 tonight due to a forecast of freezing overnight temperatures, though the current forecast suggests that Wednesday night will be warmer and that SWEP will close tomorrow morning. The council will keep the situation under review.
What is SWEP?
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.
While these restrictions are no longer in force, the government has issued new guidance in response to the risks of the Omicron variant. Working with St Mungo’s, the council has secured 25 self-contained rooms in central Oxford which means SWEP will not be provided in communal areas.
Contingency plans are in place to provide more beds if the need arises.
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.
“Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford at any time, let alone during freezing conditions that put people’s lives at risk. We’re activating SWEP tonight because the Met Office forecast is for freezing overnight temperatures. We’ll review the situation tomorrow.”
Councillor Diko Walcott, cabinet member for affordable housing, housing security and housing the homeless