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    EXCLUSIVE: Open House group move into new Cowley Road location

    After having been previously evicted from three buildings, the group is moving into empty offices above Sainsbury’s

    Open House, a group which organises shelter, meals and training for homeless people, have found a new building from which to operate.

    According to sources close to Open House, the group have occupied old, empty offices above the Sainsbury’s on Cowley Road.

    On Friday evening, the group displayed a banner on the outside of the building reading ‘People need homes – empty spaces need people’.

    Most of the group have been already moved into the offices. It is not yet known who owns this new location, though the group are working to determine ownership.

    Earlier this week, a court order ruled that they must leave their previous residence, an unused Italian restaurant in Summertown, by today, (7 April).

    They moved to the restaurant from the Old Power Station, a university-owned property from which the group was evicted on 13 March.

    Before this, the group had been squatting in a building owned by Wadham College. They were forced out of this former VW showroom, where they had been squatting for two months, by a possession order issued by the leaseholders of the bottom floor of the building.

    After their eviction from the Old Power Station, Oxford University students organised a protest to draw attention to the number of empty buildings in Oxford.

    The demonstration took place outside of the Saïd Business School, coinciding with its third annual Oxford Real Estate Conference.

    Commenting on the move, Neo, a homeless man and one of the organisers for the group, said: “The old space wasn’t suitable; there were no separate rooms and the water was off, but it was a dry space for people to keep their belongings.”

    Open House volunteer Miranda Shaw said: “It was either we give up or we go big. Again. There are still so many empty buildings and people need safe and secure places to keep their belongings and sleep safely.”

    Neo added: “People don’t understand what we have done. We have people who have stopped drinking and are now working. If people end up back on the streets it’s inevitable they will go back to their old ways.”

    The group is looking for a more permanent solution, and has met with Oxford City Council officers, as well as representatives from the University and local churches, to investigate empty commercial premises in the city.

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