It is obvious to all those who live, work, and study here, that there is a crisis on the streets of Oxford. Several homeless people have died in this rich and illustrious city so far this Winter, and many of our coldest nights are still to come.
As it stands, SWEP (the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol), under which the emergency shelters are opened to rough sleepers, is generally invoked only rarely by the City Council, usually when the weather forecast is for three consecutive nights below zero. But sometimes it doesn’t take three nights to kill someone. It didn’t take three nights to kill Vikki Cope – she was 43 when she died sleeping rough in Oxford several weeks ago.
Homelessness is a national problem, and it will not be solved in Oxford by a change of protocol. But we can do a little to ease suffering. And we can do a little to save lives. When and how often the emergency shelters are opened in Oxford is in the City Council’s hands.
So let us follow the example of London, where Sadiq Khan has announced the emergency shelters will be opened on every single day with sub-zero temperatures. This is not a revolution, but it is bold, and it will save lives. If London can dare to do this, why not Oxford?
Oxford City Council, we implore you to do the right thing and open up the emergency shelters this Winter.
We don’t have the time to wait for the next person to die.