As snow and sub-zero overnight temperatures are forecast for Oxfordshire over the next few days, Oxford City Council has invoked its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) for rough sleepers, in consultation with key local partners St Mungo’s and Homeless Oxfordshire (formerly Oxford Homeless Pathways).
SWEP sets out what the council and local homelessness organisations will do to make extra bed spaces available for rough sleepers in the city during cold winter weather. SWEP opens on the first night of a period when the Met Office forecasts the temperature will fall to zero or below on three or more consecutive nights. It can also open on a discretionary basis during other adverse weather conditions.
The council operates SWEP under guidance from Homeless Link. SWEP is currently open from tonight until Monday.
When SWEP is open, emergency accommodation is available for anyone who would otherwise be sleeping rough on the night – even if they would not usually be eligible for the city’s adult homeless pathway.
The council has alerted The Porch, A2Dominion and other providers that work alongside St Mungo’s and Homeless Oxfordshire that SWEP has been invoked.
The Oxford Street Population Outreach Team (Oxford SPOT), which is run by St Mungo’s and based at Homeless Oxfordshire’s O’Hanlon House, will tell potential rough sleepers that SWEP beds will be made available from tonight until Monday in the first instance.
Oxford SPOT will offer support to eligible rough sleepers to find longer term accommodation.
Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing, said: “We are invoking SWEP because it will be freezing tonight and we have a humanitarian obligation to do everything we can to prevent serious harm – or worse – to homeless people on the city’s streets. I’d like to thank the volunteers and professionals involved in the SWEP operation for their efforts in helping rough sleepers into emergency accommodation.”