Squatters take over UK university building and turn it into a homeless shelter
An Oxford University building has been turned into a homeless shelter by squatters, who are hoping to make it a more permanent alternative for those formerly sleeping on the streets.
Fourteen homeless people are now sleeping in the building, which has its own cooking and washing facilities.
They have been there since New Year's Eve, and according to a change.org petition, want to stay for longer.
The group, called Iffley Open House, has petitioned Wadham College, which owns the building, to let the homeless people stay.
The building has been lying empty, as it is due to be renovated and converted into student accommodation.
Students from the university are involved in the initiative, according to the Cherwell, Oxford's student newspaper.
Along with students, local residents, housing activists and Green Party members are involved in the squatting initiative.
A spokesperson for Wadham College has responded to the squatters, telling the Cherwell: “Wadham is investigating the ramifications of this move, with particular concern for the safety of those who are sleeping rough in an old and dilapidated building, including in areas that are not designed for residential use. The College will be making every effort to speak to representatives of this homeless group as well as local residents, safety experts and the site developers.
“Wadham is currently awaiting planning permission for redevelopment of the site as student accommodation, significantly relieving pressure on local housing stock. As part of this project, Wadham College has undertaken to contribute more than £900,000 (€1,035,039) towards social housing provision in Oxford.
“Wadham College is particularly concerned about the problems of homelessness in Oxfordshire and to this end has a longstanding relationship with the Gatehouse homeless project. The College regularly fundraises for homeless organisations and donated much of the furniture from the Iffley Road site to a homeless charity.”
Iffley Open House has written an open letter to the college, which says: "The situation for rough sleepers and homeless people in Oxford is now at a critical point.
“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.”