In 2017 rough sleeping in England hit record levels and the national homelessness crisis is all too evident on the streets of Oxford. We take the issue of rough sleeping extremely seriously.
The rise in street homelessness is due to factors including welfare reform, insecure and expensive private renting, and widespread cuts to mental health and social care services due to austerity.
Street homelessness has a significant impact on physical and mental health. The Office for National Statistics reports that the average age of death for a homeless person is 44 for men and 42 for women, compared with 76 and 81 in the general population.
The best way to help rough sleepers is to get them to come inside, where services can engage with them and provide the support they need to help them off the streets for good.
We are providing funding which means that up to 212 supported accommodation beds are available to Oxford rough sleepers during winter 2018/19. We also make extra emergency beds available during severe winter weather.
Homelessness in Oxford takes many forms, from the visible rough sleepers on our streets to the invisible families that have fallen on hard times. People who experience homelessness are often affected by a wide range of issues, including relationship breakup, domestic violence, debt, mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues, and changes to benefits.
Over recent years the government has cut our £9 million annual grant to nothing. Despite this challenging financial situation, we are doing our best to support everyone who is at risk of or becomes homeless.
Over the last few years we have:
- increased our annual grants to Oxford’s homeless charities. In 2019/20 we are proposing to spend more than £2 million, including nearly £340,000 developing new winterlong emergency accommodation that will be available to all rough sleepers
- committed £1.5 million to keep the Simon House hostel partly open in the face of closure and to build a brand new facility for rough sleepers with complex needs in Cowley - this is expected to open in June 2019
- secured more than £1 million of temporary government Rough Sleepr Initiative funding to enhance support for rough sleepers during the winters of 2018/19 and 2019/20
- secured £790,000 of government Trailblazer funding to help vulnerable single adults under the age of 35 and households at risk of homelessness across Oxfordshire
- allocated £20 million to buy homes for otherwise homeless Oxford families
- alongside partners, prevented 1,159 households from becoming homeless in 2017/18