EMERGENCY beds will be made available for people sleeping rough in Oxford to prevent deaths if temperatures fall below freezing.

Oxford City Council, homeless providers, charities and churches have joined forces to provide extra bed spaces for the homeless on the streets during the winter months.

The local authority said due to an increase in the number of people sleeping rough they had increased their 'core supply' of beds from 162 to 167 to meet demand in 2017/18.

There will also be 27 extra beds available for the homeless under the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) which is enforced if temperatures fall below zero degrees for three nights running.

The city council said it believes the provision, together with help from churches, will be 'sufficient' to meet demand from rough sleepers this winter.

As well as beds being supplied by a range of providers including Simon House, O'Hanlon House. The Porch and St Mungo's, support will be given to help those with complex needs.

Mike Rowley, city councillor for housing, said: "Simon House, O’Hanlon House and The Porch/St Mungo’s have offered to open these emergency beds over the Bank Holidays over the Christmas and New Year period, total of five nights, regardless of temperatures

"Churches in Oxford are planning to operate an emergency night shelter in the city between January and March. OxSpot, our Outreach Team, has agreed to make referrals to the scheme and provide support to help people access suitable longer term accommodation.

"I would urge people who wish to help rough sleepers this winter to donate money or sleeping bags and roll mats to the churches or one of the various voluntary organisations that we work with to help get people off the streets for good."

The city council said it does not have a statutory requirement to provide shelter for rough sleepers during the winter, but added it believes it has a 'humanitarian obligation' to do what it can to prevent deaths on the streets caused by adverse weather.

Claire Dowan, chief executive of Oxford Homeless Pathways (OxHOP), which provide accommodation and support for up to 200 homeless people, said: "We recognise that cold weather and Christmas is both practically and emotionally extremely difficult for rough sleepers.

“Oxford Homeless Pathways provides a place of safety and support 365 days a year and the extension of SWEP over the holiday period will enable us to offer more space. This is an emergency-type provision."

Jon Fitzpatrick, Director, The Porch, added: "We appreciate that there is a great deal of need amongst the client group which exists all year round and not only through the winter period however it is a reflection of the city council’s good will that work for this began during spring this year."

The city council spends £1.4m a year on homelessness services, funding a total of 167 beds with associated support services for rough sleepers.

The council also said Lucy Faithfull House, which is earmarked for demolition, will be replaced with affordable homes to relieve pressure on other homeless services.