Oxford University: Step Up and Help Iffley Open House

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Dear Oxford University & Wadham College,

We are writing to you out of deep concern for the steadily worsening homelessness situation in Oxford, and particularly for the residents of Iffley Open House. As Oxford students, we encounter rough sleepers daily and have come to know many of them through campaigning and volunteering. And it breaks our hearts that whilst we are given comfortable, subsidised housing in the centre of the city, so many others struggle, often for months or even years, without housing.

Iffley Open House has been providing the most valuable thing rough sleepers need – shelter. This need is most acute during winter months as temperatures plummet and rough sleepers are more vulnerable to illness.

They have provided around 20 people with warmth, love and care for the past six weeks, and these people should not be forced back onto the streets just as they are starting to find their feet once again. One has been accepted at university, others have found accommodation and several are waiting for responses to job applications.

We call on you to do the right thing and let them stay until the pre-demolition work finishes, which will postpone the date of departure by a week or two. We would like to know more about your building plans and request that you do not evict the residents until they have found an alternative place to stay, ensuring that they do not have to go back to the streets.

Wadham College – you have agreed to act as an advocate for Iffley Open House and thus we urge you to actively help them in finding alternative accommodation. We call on all colleges and departments to consider whether any empty buildings they may have could be used as a temporary residence until the first week of April.

We want to make it clear that it is not just Wadham but the university as a whole that has a responsibility to help the homeless. More social housing should be built and the university should seek to support homeless charities in as many ways as possible, not just through student fundraising and campaigning. We want to set up a dialogue between the colleges and the community, so that the university engages with the wider city rather than being trapped in a bubble. It should consider using empty buildings in the winter to support the homeless.

The university is possibly the only body or institution in Oxford that has enough power or influence to create visible change in the homelessness situation. It occupies a great deal of the city, and thus has a responsibility to help given its indirect role in increasing housing costs.

Homelessness is one of the most heart-breaking issues Britain faces. Oxford – please don’t stand on the wrong side of history.

Yours sincerely,

On Your Doorstep
OUSU Homelessness Campaign

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