Oxford

Oxford empty buildings could be used as temporary homeless shelters

Osney Mill Image copyright Bill Nicholls
Image caption The homeless group moved to Osney Mill, owned by Oxford University, on 26 February

A proposal to use empty buildings in Oxford as temporary homeless shelters has been backed by councillors.

The city council gave its support to the plan after squatters from the Iffley Open House campaign group repeatedly occupied disused properties.

They included a vacant car showroom, an Oxford University building and a former Italian restaurant.

Campaigner and former councillor Elise Benjamin said the squatters had raised awareness of homelessness in the city.

'Astonishing public response'

The council motion said the decision was taken because of the growing number of rough sleepers, and the "significant number of long and short-term vacant buildings in Oxford".

It will now commission a report by September into how empty properties could be made available for use as temporary homeless shelters.

The group, which included about 20 homeless people, had to leave the buildings they occupied after several court orders were granted against them.

Ms Benjamin said: "There was an astonishing public response, so positive, so many many people contributing their time and donations.

"We believe that can continue and with the council supporting us we have an even better chance that there will be that same response again."

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Media captionThe group moved into a car showroom on Iffley Road owned by Wadham College

On New Year's Eve, the group moved into a car showroom on Iffley Road owned by Wadham College.

They were evicted in February and they occupied Osney Mill, which is owned by Oxford University.

A court order was granted to repossess the property in March, and the group moved to a former Italian restaurant in Summertown, then empty flats above a Sainsbury's in Cowley Road.

The have since left for health and safety reasons and are believed to be staying with friends.

Image caption Iffley Open House occupied an unused Italian restaurant in Summertown in April

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