COUNCIL bosses have been urged to rethink how many winter nights some homeless people in Oxford might need to endure before they are given a bed.

It is feared that without a change to current guidelines used by Oxford City Council, up to 50 rough sleepers without a ‘local connection’ could need to sleep in temperatures just above zero before they are able to access council-supported accommodation.

Currently Oxford City Council only provides extra bed spaces to rough sleepers from outside its boundary, meaning others from around Oxfordshire coming to the city could miss out.

But when night temperatures are forecast by the Met Office to be freezing or below for three consecutive nights, a bed is offered to everyone under its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).

To access beds outside those conditions people must have a provable link to the city.

As many as half of about 100 homeless people sleeping rough around Oxford do not have any tie to the city and cannot get that help.

City council Green Party leader David Thomas, said: “The vast majority of those currently sleeping rough at the moment will not be able to access the beds on offer, meaning we will have at least 50 people out on the streets this winter.”

He said going into the winter with no changes to the council’s SWEP would be ‘unnecessarily mean’.

A six-week consultation on Oxford City Council’s housing and homelessness strategy opened last Thursday.

Oxford City Council’s board member for housing, Councillor Mike Rowley, said: “Oxford City Council already does more than most other local authorities.

“Up to 50 per cent of people sleeping rough on our streets have no local connection. We will help them find the support they need in their own areas, rather than sleeping on Oxford’s streets or expecting a long-term solution in the city.”

This year, two homeless hostels will provide beds for 108 rough sleepers. They are O’Hanlon House, on Luther Street, and Simon House, on Paradise Street.

From next April, the council proposes another 101 will be provided at O’Hanlon House, Simon House and another 52 in other locations.

It will provide another 66 beds across the city with its own funds. That will mean 167 beds for rough sleepers from next spring - but they must have a tie to Oxford.

Adam Rees, St Mungo’s regional director, said: “Homelessness is not inevitable and no-one sets out to sleep rough.

“Our focus is on helping people to move away from the streets as quickly as possible and rebuild their lives. We are right behind Oxford’s fresh push to tackle this crisis.”

An Oxford City Council survey completed in March showed most people living on Oxford’s streets had drug or alcohol addiction problems and ‘most’ had mental health issues.

View the consulation at visit