Emergency beds for people experiencing rough sleeping will be available tonight after Oxford City Council activated its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP).
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 cold spell.
The forecast is for freezing overnight temperatures tonight (Thursday 20 January), with warmer weather over the weekend. As a result, SWEP is expected to close tomorrow morning.
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While these restrictions are no longer in force, government guidance in response to the Omicron variant means that the council will continue to offer a self-contained room to people this winter. SWEP will not be provided in communal areas.
Allocating SWEP beds
The St Mungo’s outreach and assessment team allocates SWEP beds to people during the day and notifies 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’re making emergency beds available for anyone experiencing rough sleeping tonight because of the extra risks posed by the Omicron variant and freezing overnight weather. We’ll review the situation tomorrow morning but the likelihood is that SWEP will close due to the current forecast of warmer weather over the weekend.”
Councillor Diko Walcott, cabinet member for affordable housing, housing security and housing the homeless