THIS humble shelter in a residential street in east Oxford can hardly be described as a house.

But it is someone’s home and its existence highlights the trend of homeless people occupying buildings not in use to avoid being forced to sleep on the streets.

The makeshift shelter has been constructed around a tree and empty space alongside the former Crown House Club snooker hall in Crown Street, off Cowley Road.

Oxford Mail:

Residents said the shack has been in place for at least a year.

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After the Oxford Mail ran a story this week highlighting the city council’s efforts to clamp down on rogue landlords allowing beds in sheds, community web page Cowley OX4 tweeted pictures of the Crown Street shack.

A woman emerging from the structure on Thursday confirmed it was being occupied.

Before leaving in the direction of Cowley Road, she said: “It’s not me staying here - it’s a friend.”

This week the city council passed plans to turn the former snooker hall into a 16-bedroom hotel.

READ MORE: New hotel allowed for former private members' club in East Oxford

A 20-year-old Oxford University medical student, who lives in the area, said people would arrive at the shack late at night and disturb their sleep with loud noise.

Oxford Mail:

He added: “We have complained to the council but I don’t think it’s council property so there might not be anything they can do about it.

“I did hear that the club initially allowed some Polish people to stay there but they were then forced out by the homeless people.

“It’s been like this for at least a year - maybe longer.”

READ AGAIN: New homeless accommodation in Oxford helps to tackle rough sleeping

Barry Davies, deputy premises supervisor of The Black Swan in Crown Street, said the club has been closed for years and rough sleepers have been occupying the shelter for about nine months.

He added: “Sometimes there are eight or nine of them in there drinking and they urinate up against this little old lady’s wall - she’s in her nineties. The place is full of down-and-outs and they end up throwing bottles at 3am.

Oxford Mail:

“The police come down and move them away then a new load come in.

“The club has been closed for quite a few years and the council doesn’t own the building - I think the owners are Chinese.”

Mr Davies said he sympathised with the rough sleepers but suggested they link up with homelessness agencies to get a better life.

He added: “They are on the fringe of society but it’s time the council stepped in here.”

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Architects’ firm Transition by Design has been running the Open House project in Little Clarendon Street to prompt debate about how empty buildings could be put to better use.

Oxford Mail:

The council has been spending millions of pounds to tackle the city’s rough sleeper crisis.

A new homeless hub is being opened in Floyd’s Row, St Aldate’s while another premises has been built in Rymers Lane.

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A council spokesman said it did not have ‘automatic power’ to remove the shelter. He added: “The community response and outreach teams, together with Thames Valley Police, have been working with the occupants to help them engage with services and access accommodation. "We are also addressing concerns about antisocial behaviour.”