ROUGH sleepers across Oxford will be put up in hotels so they can safely self-isolate.

Oxford City Council is working with commercial hotels to urgently accommodate up to 100 homeless people, to protect them during the coronavirus pandemic.

Two unidentified hotels are already on board and the council is appealing for any others, who can spare self-contained en-suite rooms, to get in touch.

It has also handed out phones to make sure that rough sleepers can call for help if they need it.

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With limited access to washing facilities and often with existing health conditions, rough sleepers are a high-risk group and could be particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

The council's deputy leader Linda Smith said: "The best way to help people is to get them off the streets and our outreach and assessment service (OxSPOT) is stepping up efforts to support people experiencing rough sleeping.

"Outreach workers are providing phones to clients and making sure they are aware of the symptoms of coronavirus and what to do if they suspect they may be ill."

The authority is paying for the provision but has secured up to £32,250 from an emergency fund from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, worth £3.2m, to help cover the cost.

Councils will also be able to apply for additional funding to help support the homeless during the crisis.

OxSPOT's assessment hub in Bonn Square has closed so more outreach workers can get out on the streets.

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The hotel rooms will be offered to street sleepers as well as residents currently living at the Floyds Row shelter, at Oxford Winter Night Shelter and at a part of O'Hanlon House hostel called overnight sit-up.

This is because the accommodation there is shared, which is not suitable for self-isolation.

Beds there are expected to be emptied as soon as alternative accommodation is sorted, and will remain empty until coronavirus is no longer a threat to safety.

The normal provision at O'Hanlon House and at Matilda House shelter will still be able to operate as usual, as those rooms are self-contained.

Ms Smith said the council is working closely with Public Health England, Thames Valley Police, addiction service Turning Point and other organisations to coordinate their approach.

She added: "When we activated emergency beds at the weekend because of freezing weather we provided self-contained accommodation in a city centre hotel.

"We are working on the assumption that we will not be able to provide communal living spaces in projects like Floyds Row for much longer and are urgently looking to identify further suitable self-contained accommodation for homeless people."

Anyone who can help has been encouraged to call the council's rough sleeping and single homelessness team, on 01865 249811.

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The council will also consider offers from colleges and landlords, as well as hotels. 

To date the council has secured 21 hotel rooms and is in talks to secure almost 60 more.

Any rough sleepers who think they have coronavirus symptoms can get urgent help via the OxSPOT team, on 01865 243229.

As reported in yesterday's Oxford Mail, day centre The Porch has temporarily closed its canteen for the homeless and is instead going to deliver meals directly to those in need.

This will be via meal drops to the hotels, and to other accommodation where vulnerably-housed members are living.

Volunteers and donations are needed to facilitate this, and anyone who can help with either can find out more via or donate here.

The city council is supporting The Porch with the initiative and working to ensure that rough sleepers in hotels will get fed.

Providing help for vulnerable people, and providing food and drink for the homeless, are among the services exempt from the government's lockdown.