Oxford City Council has invoked its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) to ensure that extra beds are provided for rough sleepers as snow and sub-zero overnight temperatures are forecast for Oxfordshire. The emergency accommodation opened on Friday night and is currently open until Monday night.
Oxford has one of the greatest number of rough sleepers in the country outside of London.
According to the Oxford City Council website, the SWEP is usually invoked when “the night temperature is forecast by the Met Office to be below 0 for three consecutive nights.” It can also be invoked on a flexible basis during other hostile weather conditions. It sets out what the council and local homelessness organisations will do to make extra beds available for rough sleepers.
The decision was made in consultation with St Mungo’s and Homeless Oxfordshire. The council has also alerted other providers that SWEP has been invoked, including The Porch and A2Dominion.
The Oxford Street Population Outreach Team (Oxford SPOT), based at Homeless Oxfordshire’s O’Hanlon House and run by St Mungo’s, is telling potential rough sleepers about the emergency beds made available by SWEP.
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.”