At least 30 emergency bed spaces available to rough sleepers in Oxford this winter

At least 30 emergency beds will be offered this winter for people with insomnia.

Oxford City Council activates its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) in freezing winter weather and provides beds for anyone wishing to get inside.

Until last winter, SWEP beds were provided in shared dormitories, but the council felt that this could not be done in a Covid-safe manner and people were given their own room for the night.

Working with St Mungo’s and Homeless Oxfordshire, the council has secured at least 30 beds in two locations in central Oxford, including 25 self-contained rooms.

The Council believes that this will meet the potential demand as last winter no more than 18 people used the offer of a SWEP bed in a single night.

Emergency plans are in place to provide additional beds if necessary. Only in exceptional cases will the Council consider asking SWEP providers to use common areas more intensively.

Due to sustained periods of frost last winter and unusually low temperatures until mid-April, SWEP was activated in 48 nights – surpassing the previous record of 47 nights in 2012/13.

This included the longest uninterrupted period of 19 nights between December 23rd and the morning of January 11th.

2021 was also only the second year in which emergency beds were needed in April.

The council will activate SWEP every night the Met Office predicts temperatures will freeze overnight. It also uses its discretion to open emergency beds in other severe weather conditions. This could include snow on the ground, sub-zero temperatures, or a warmer night amid a prolonged period of frost.

St. Mungo’s outreach and assessment team will assign people SWEP rooms during the day and notify them where and when to go.

Individuals who have not been pre-assigned a SWEP room can present between 11:00 PM and 12:00 PM at O’Hanlon House.

One of the SWEP venues is suitable for people with dogs and St Mungo’s can also arrange free kennels if needed. Kennels must be arranged in advance and are not available during the night.

Councilor Diko Blackings, Cabinet Member for Affordable Housing, Housing Security and Homeless Housing, said: “SWEP has relied on Oxford homeless services staff and volunteers to increase and take on extra shifts in addition to their day jobs, and I am grateful for St. Mungo’s and the homeless Oxfordshire for their help in providing emergency beds in severe weather this winter.

“If you are concerned that someone is having trouble sleeping, you can contact St Mungos on 07590 862049 or email [email protected]

Matt Rudd, Regional Manager for St. Mungo’s in Oxford added: “This is a temporary situation to ensure people have access to warm, safe and adequate housing for us to arrange moving accommodation and a return in a time of year prevent restless sleep. Restless sleep is harmful and dangerous at any time of the year. We would like to ask anyone who is concerned about someone they see as having poor sleep to use the Streetlink app or website and send a recommendation. ”

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