AN emergency plan to give rough sleepers who want to avoid subzero temperatures has been laid out.

New arrangements have been made for offering what are called severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) beds to people sleeping rough in Oxford this winter.

Oxford City Council activates its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) during freezing winter weather and makes beds available for anyone who wants to come inside.

The council has offered safe accommodation to everyone experiencing rough sleeping in Oxford since March, so those accessing SWEP help this winter are likely to have refused all previous offers of help, returned to the streets or be newly homeless.

Until this winter SWEP beds were provided in shared sleeping spaces.

But this winter people who want a SWEP space will be offered their own room for the night to prevent the spread of Covid infection.

Working with charities St Mungo’s, Aspire and Homeless Oxfordshire, the council has secured 22 rooms across three venues and contingency plans are in place to provide more if the need arises. The use of communal spaces will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

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The council will activate SWEP on every night the Met Office forecasts freezing overnight temperatures.

It also uses its discretion to open emergency beds in other severe weather conditions.

These can include snow on the ground, sub-zero ‘feels like’ temperatures or a warmer night in the middle of a prolonged freezing spell.

Mike Rowley, council cabinet member for affordable housing and housing the homeless, said: “The pandemic demands that we take a different approach to SWEP and we’ve worked with partners to provide individual rooms rather than shared spaces during freezing weather.

"Together with the ongoing work we’ve undertaken since the government called for ‘everyone in’ back in March, SWEP arrangements mean that vulnerable homeless people will be able to access safe, self-contained rooms when they choose to come inside this winter.”

The council has been taking part in a Government-backed scheme called Everyone In since the start of the pandemic, which aims to house all rough sleepers on the streets.