Tell Wadham College to do the right thing for homeless people this winter
On one of the coldest nights of the year a group legally occupied an empty building owned by Oxford University's Wadham College to provide secure shelter and basic amenities for people sleeping rough on Oxford's streets.
Wadham and leaseholders Midcounties Co-op now want to throw the homeless people staying in the building back onto the streets!
The building, which has been empty for two years was opened on New Year's Eve as 'Iffley Open House' a shelter run together with rough sleepers and homeless people to create a safe and secure home.
Help us by calling on the owners, Wadham College and leaseholders Midcounties Co-op, to allow the continued use of the building as a shelter this winter.
We are requesting the building remain open as a shelter for just three months - at which point the owners plan to demolish the buildings and redevelop the site.
This action is in response to the rising number of rough sleepers in Oxford, up 50% in the last year, whilst central government cuts force the closure of homeless services across the city. By the end of 2018 further decommissioning of services will result in a loss of more than 260 beds since early 2016.
Thank you for your support!
- Domestic Bursar and Communications
- Oxford City Council
To Whom it May Concern,
We are writing regarding the former VW garage in Iffley Road, acquired by Wadham College in May 2015, which has lain empty for over two years and is currently cited for demolition and redevelopment.
As you may be aware the situation for rough sleepers and homeless people in Oxford is now at a critical point. Latest figures show rough sleeping in Oxford has more than trebled in the last five years.
Concurrently, government cuts force the closure of night shelters across the city. 61 beds were lost in 2016 with the closure of Lucy Faithful House which had been offering support to rough sleepers in Oxford for 30 years; a further 202 beds will be lost over the next 12 months as further government cuts will force the closures of Simon House and Julian Housing.
Simultaneously, Oxford University and colleges like Wadham own dozens of buildings across the city which lie empty, some of which have been empty for almost a decade, that could be repurposed as shelters, social housing and social spaces.
Due to the lack of action in response to this growing crisis, from both landowners and local council, we occupied the old VW garage building on New Year's eve. It is now being operated as a shelter by and for homeless people and rough sleepers.
The Building is currently legally occupied under Section 12 and Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act, 1977 and is being used as a home for the purpose of its current residents.
We are writing to formally request that Wadham College allow the building to remain in operation as a shelter for three months from the date of occupation – the worst of the winter period – in order to give those without a home or a roof over their head a warm, dry, secure home over the remainder of this winter.
We understand that plans for redevelopment of the space will not commence until after this point, therefore this should pose no delay nor have any material impact on the College. But rather it will show Wadham as compassionate and supporting the needs of the local community.
There is strong precedent for such an action: in October 2015 a large building in Manchester, bought by footballers Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville for the creation of a luxury hotel, was squatted by a group of homeless people before its reopening, saying they just needed somewhere to stay for the winter. The group were given permission by its owners to stay in the building over last winter.
All attempts are being made to make the building fully safe and habitable for its residents. This includes the removal of debris, the cordoning off of areas deemed unsafe for habitation, inspection by qualified electricians and the labelling and taping of any hazards identified in each space.
We look forward to receiving your response shortly.
Iffley Open House
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