Iffley Open House has received notice from Wadham College to vacate the old VW garage on Iffley Road by the 27th February.
Despite an agreement reached last month between the group and leaseholders Midcounties Co-operative, Wadham confirmed this week that they have ended the lease early and plan to take back possession of the site by the end of February.
In January, the College expressed its sympathy for the project but stated its intention to continue with the 135 bedroom student development planned for the site.
In a statement released today, a spokesperson for the college said:
“Wadham College and Mid-Counties Cooperative have agreed to the termination of the Co-op’s lease. As a result, control of the site has passed to Wadham College, with a group of 20 homeless people still in occupation. As a procedural step, Wadham College has instructed the Co-op to issue the homeless group with a notice to quit, in line with the Possession Order granted in January.”
From the start of the occupation, we have made it clear that the squatters could not remain beyond 27 February, when the site is required for pre-demolition works. We welcome the renewed commitment from representatives of Iffley Open House that, as they have always promised us, they will adhere to this time-line and vacate the property by this date.”
Iffley Open House, which has been occupying the college-owned property for the past six weeks, is now searching for alternative accommodation to house its 20 residents. Sandra Philips, a volunteer with the project, said:
“This space has changed lives. We are concerned that we have to move on before the end of winter, but hopeful we can find a new home and we are determined to continue working with and supporting the residents.
“So much has been achieved in the last six weeks – in total we have provided 150 nights of warm, safe accommodation, almost 200 volunteers have given their time and thousands more have given donations and have sent messages of support. This shows what is possible when we work together as a community.”
“We have provided 150 nights of warm, safe accommodation, almost 200 volunteers have given their time and thousands more have given donations and have sent messages of support“
With the closure of homeless shelters across the city, figures suggest that rough sleeping in Oxford has more than trebled in the past five years. In 2016, the closure of Lucy Faithful meant the loss of 61 beds, whilst 202 more spaces will disappear by the end of 2018 as Simon House and Julian Housing close their doors.
The Iffley Road building was opened by a group of students and residents on New Year’s Eve to provide temporary accommodation to rough sleepers in the city. Iffley Open House had requested that Wadham keep the building open for a further three months in the face of what it perceived as a “growing homelessness crisis”.
In today’s statement, the College expressed its sympathy for Iffley Open House and made clear that it continues to be involved in discussions with the group:
“Wadham would like to reiterate its profound sympathy for the plight of the homeless in Oxford. We continue to be in dialogue with Iffley Open House representatives, members of the local council and local housing charities to encourage their attempts to find alternative accommodation for this homeless group, whom we have been happy to shelter temporarily at the Iffley Road site for several weeks.”
The group has invited the council and the general public to come forward with suggestions for accommodation until the end of winter.