Oxford City Council, in partnership with Pembroke College, has provided over 15,000 free meals to Oxford’s homeless population since the 4th of April in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Oxford Student has learned that the council secured over 120 rooms previously used as student accommodation in order to house rough sleepers, alongside providing breakfast and two hot meals a day for those housed. A team of 8 council members and ODS staff delivered the meals as well as essential items twice a day. Just some of the food and items delivered per week includes 1,750 packs of cereal, 840 pints of milk, and 120 kilograms of mashed potatoes, alongside over 2,000 sets of disposable cutlery.
The food was provided by Pembroke College and accommodated a range of dietary requirements, including allergies, gluten, and dairy intolerances, as well as halal meals, vegetarian meals, and food safe for diabetics. The College has also followed a strict hygiene protocol for all deliveries and sanitized all equipment each night, alongside following social distancing by allowing only four staff to be in the kitchen at a time to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As the initiative took place during Ramadan, the council ensured that the second delivery of food took place close to Sunset, so that those fasting could also be provided for.
Councillor Mike Rowley, who is a cabinet member for affordable housing and housing the homeless commented that “it takes more than a roof to end homelessness and I’m very grateful for the hard work done by Pembroke College, council and ODS staff to meet to needs of people who has experience rough sleeping or were still on the streets when we went into lockdown.”
The Master of Pembroke College also provided that “Everyone in college is immensely proud of our catering team who are once again putting in extra effort to show the meaning of being a caring community”, with the college’s Head Chef Chris Allnutt adding that “the challenge that we are all undertaking has been one of the most difficult I have tackled but certainly by far the most rewarding”.
This news comes after fears that rough sleepers are up to three times more likely to experience a chronic health condition, including respiratory conditions, which puts them in further danger as they are unable to self-isolate or follow sanitation guidance according to Crisis, a homeless Charity.
Image by Oxford City Council.