Breaking: Wadham gives homeless squatters two weeks to vacate shelter

Squatters in search for new space, as 13 homeless residents will be left without accommodation

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'People need homes - empty spaces need people': Activists lower banner over occupied former garage on Iffley Road. Picture: Iffley Open House

Iffley Open House (IOH) squatters, currently using an old VW garage owned by Wadham College as a homeless shelter, have been told by the college that they have two weeks to leave the site, according to the group.

The group say that in January, the leaseholders of the ground floor of the building, the Mid-Counties Co-Operative, negotiated a lease to allow the squatters to stay until 10 April.

However, Wadham confirmed this week that it had terminated the Co-op’s lease and intend to take legal possession of the property at the end of February, in order to move forward with plans to redevelop the site into student accommodation. Wadham reiterated that the college’s “intentions and time-line remain the same as previously and consistently stated”.

In a statement, the college said: “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.”

Since New Year’s Eve the group have being using the building to house up to 20 homeless people. They have been providing cooked meals, washing facilities, as well as providing skills to held the residents find new work.

IOH say that since opening the shelter, two residents have been rehoused, one has been accepted into University, a further two have started new jobs, and several others are awaiting responses from job applications.

Cherwell understands that there are 13 residents currently staying in the shelter, who could be forced back on to the streets. The group are calling on the local community and council authorities to help them find a new space to house the residents from 27 February should the homeless squatters not find alternative accommodation.

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Sandra Phillips, a volunteer at Iffley Open House 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 600 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.”

Wadham stated its “profound sympathy for the plight of the homeless in Oxford,” and said that it remained in regular communication with IOH representatives. The college said it was in contact with “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.”