Following a year-long campaign by the local Liberal Democrats, Oxford City Council has passed a motion which means the emergency shelter should be open every night below 0 degrees, as opposed to three consecutive nights.
The changes to the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) had been called for by Liberal Democrat councillors in November 2017, but were dismissed by Labour councillors.
Conor McKenzie is calling for the support to go further, with three additional changes:
1. Trigger the support at 4 degrees, not zero
2. Take into account other extreme weather, including snow, ice, and severe wind and rain
3. Keep SWEP activated for a minimum of 3 nights, so further support can be offered
At the beginning of the year the Liberal Democrats were also successful in ensuring the City Council tightened up its use of Community Protection Notices.
These had been introduced by Labour councillors and used to remove belongings from people sleeping rough, including sleeping bags, and threaten them with £2,500 fines.
Conor McKenzie, a local resident and the Liberal Democrats’ Homelessness & Rough Sleeping spokesperson in Oxford, said:
“I’m proud of the successes the local Liberal Democrats have had on homelessness and rough sleeping in Oxford, but there is still such a long way to go.
“A single night on the street is a tragedy, but a night in very cold temperatures can be lethal.
“Labour city councillors need to take seriously our calls for extending SWEP even further. We can prevent hypothermia this winter and help ensure we stop people sleeping rough again.
“Taking seriously our calls for stable and more permanent accommodation for people rough sleeping would be a great step in the right direction too, ending the city’s reliance on local churches and groups to get through winter."
Conor McKenzie and the local Liberal Democrats will be launching a housing and homelessness campaign in the New Year, seeking to seriously address the crises in Oxford. More information soon.