What we do to tackle homelessness

How we help rough sleepers

Funding and core service provision

Until April 2016 Oxfordshire County Council received ring-fenced funding from central government to commission housing related support across Oxfordshire that included shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness. The end of this ring-fenced funding and the subsequent reduction of more than £2m a year in housing support mean that we have stepped in to fill a sizeable gap.

In 2019/20 we initially budgeted nearly £1.75m to fund a wide range of support services. Many of these services aim to prevent homelessness through early intervention before people reach crisis point. Funding to help people already sleeping rough supports them through what is known as the homeless pathway. This is the path away from sleeping on the streets:

  • hostels and supported accommodation
  • support with employment, training, substance abuse or mental health issues
  • helping people into permanent accommodation and work

This funding means we now provide 200 beds a year for people experiencing homelessness, with more during winter months.

Summary of main services

OxSPOT is the outreach team we commission from St Mungo’s that assesses people experiencing homelessness and helps them to access accommodation and support that can prevent them from returning to the streets. OxSPOT is the front door of our homeless pathway and people must be verified by outreach to access most of the accommodation we fund.

While people are being verified and assessed they can access beds in the sit up service provided at O’Hanlon House by Homeless Oxfordshire or in our Somewhere Safe to Stay service for newly homeless people at Floyds Row. Floyds Row also provides a winter shelter available to anybody. When it is fully open in April 2020, Floyds Row will provide assessment services for people at risk of or experiencing rough sleeping and shelter for up to 56 people.

There are two main hostels in Oxford. Homeless Oxfordshire has 56 beds at O’Hanlon House and there are 22 beds at Matilda House, which is run by A2Dominion and opened in September 2019.

As people progress towards independent living, they move on into supported accommodation that is usually provided in shared housing around the city. We fund accommodation provided by A2Dominion, Connection Support, Homeless Oxfordshire, Mayday Trust and Response Housing.

During winter we provide extra emergency beds every night the Met Office forecasts freezing overnight temperatures. These are available to anyone who wants to come inside. From 1 January until the end of March, a group of Oxford churches also offers 20 beds a night for verified rough sleepers in the Oxford Winter Night Shelter.

We fund nearly 100 hours a week in day services for people experiencing homelessness, provided by The Gatehouse, Homeless Oxfordshire and The Porch day centre. These services are available to anyone and include hot food, showers, laundry and activities to support people into work and training. We also fund Aspire Oxford and Emmaus to provide employment and training opportunities for homeless and vulnerably housed people.

For more information about what we do and additional funding, see below. 

What we do

We spend more than £143,000 a year to help provide day services for rough sleepers in Oxford. We fund Homeless Oxfordshire, The Porch day centre and The Gatehouse to provide these services.

Homeless Oxfordshire provides day services from its O'Hanlon House hostel in Luther Street from 10 am to 3 pm on weekdays and from 10 am to 2 pm on weekends. O’Hanlon House provides shower and laundry facilities, and two meals a day. These are available to any verified rough sleeper, regardless of their local connection to Oxford. Users of day services can also access services provided to hostel residents, including training, education and activities as part of the Step Up project.

The Porch day centre in Magdalen Road provides day long support for homeless and vulnerably housed people six days a week. Its services include two cheap hot meals a day, shower and laundry facilities, clothing, and a range of activities including ICT training and allotment work.

The Gatehouse is at 10 Woodstock Road, and provides a drop-in café for homeless and vulnerably housed people six days a week. It also offers free internet access, a clothes store and art, literacy and computer activities groups.

The total provision of day services across the three sites is for 97 hours a week.

In the last few years we have secured additional temporary funding to help people experiencing homelessness from the government’s Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) and Rapid Rehousing Pathway (RRP) programmes.

We have won more than £1m in RSI funding for 2018/19 and 2019/20. Last winter this funding allowed us to provide a new multi-agency hub getting people off the streets more quickly and 39 extra beds – these included specialist accommodation for women and two winter night shelters available to anyone experiencing homelessness. This winter, RSI funding will allow us to provide 25 extra beds.

In May 2019 we were awarded more than £850,000 in RRP funding by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). This included £727,400 to transform the former jobcentre in Floyds Row into an assessment hub and shelter for up to 56 people experiencing homelessness or at risk of rough sleeping.

The other RRP funding was given to provide better support for people as they move from the street to long term and sustainable housing:

  • £99,000 for navigators working with long term rough sleepers and people who have returned to rough sleeping after being accommodated
  • £31,300 for floating support to help people sustain new social tenancies as they leave homelessness behind.

Public Health England also agreed to give us £100,000 to provide alcohol treatment services in the Floyds Row assessment hub.

To allow a full range of services to operate at Floyds Row from next spring, we have agreed to contribute funding to meet the overall project cost of £1.9 million. This is on top of the £1.75m we had budgeted for reducing rough sleeping in 2019/20.

Matilda House

Matilda House is a new supported accommodation service in Cowley providing 22 beds for homeless people with complex needs and move on accommodation for 15 people as they transition towards independent living. A2Dominion run this service, which replaces Simon House and opened in September.

Transforming services

The high number of people arriving on or returning to our streets and the challenges involved in helping them leave homelessness behind mean we are adopting a new approach to rough sleeping in Oxfordshire.

We have recently agreed plans that will mean improved assessment and a range of new accommodation and services aimed at getting people off the streets and into sustainable housing more quickly. This includes providing winterlong emergency shelter available to anyone sleeping rough – whether or not they have a local connection or recourse to public funds.

Councils and health partners across Oxfordshire have committed to working collaboratively to develop a countywide strategy to ensure an effective whole system approach focused on prevention, early intervention and moving people on from rough sleeping. Our plans are part of this transformational approach.

The centrepiece of our transformation plan is the conversion of 1 Floyds Row into a new assessment centre and shelter. When fully operational next spring, Floyds Row will include a range of accommodation, a treatment room and intensive support to help people move on from a life on the streets.

The new approach begins with the first conversation with someone experiencing homelessness. This is often the most challenging conversation and the most important to get right in getting people off the streets for good.

Until now, initial conversations with people sleeping rough have taken place on the streets. Now they will take place indoors in a warm, calm and safe space co-designed by people experiencing homelessness that will be open round the clock all year round. Expert assessment workers will help people to develop personal housing plans and get the support they need from other services to move on into sustainable accommodation.

It can be difficult to engage with long term rough sleepers and those who repeatedly return to the streets because of complex needs that include unmet mental health needs and drug or alcohol misuse. Assessment at Floyds Row will include access to onsite drug, alcohol and medical services.

St Mungo’s is running the new assessment service, and its recent experience of delivering similar “right first time” services in London and the south of England has seen four fifths of people leaving the streets behind for good.

While the conversion of Floyds Row is in progress, interim services including intensive assessment and a winterlong shelter are operating from Simon House.

Our transformation plans to get people off the streets and into sustainable housing more quickly build on the learning from our Oxfordshire Trailblazer project. This was an £890,000 MHCLG-funded programme that ran for two years until September 2019.

The Oxfordshire Trailblazer project worked with health, criminal justice, social care and other services across the county to prevent homelessness by identifying and intervening to help people at risk of homelessness before they reached crisis point:

  • community navigators supported their clients to work with services that could help prevent homelessness, and also helped them with issues like benefits, debt, social isolation and finding work
  • embedded housing workers helped staff in hospitals, prisons, probation and children’s social care to provide better housing and homelessness prevention support for their own service users
  • a homeless champions network provided better communication, sharing of good practice and planning across statutory and other services.

The Oxfordshire Trailblazer project helped to prevent or relieve homelessness in four fifths of referrals where the outcome was known and in around half of cases overall.

From January until the end of March, a group of Oxford churches open their doors to provide emergency accommodation for up to 20 rough sleepers who have been verified by the outreach team (OxSPOT).

For more information about OWNS, visit the OWNS website.

We fund the severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP), which means that local homelessness agencies provide extra beds to rough sleepers during severe winter weather.

SWEP’s primary purpose is to provide emergency shelter during severe winter weather and it is available for any rough sleeper who wants to come inside – even if they would not normally qualify for a bed in our adult homeless pathway or have previously refused offers of accommodation and support.

We activate SWEP on every night that the Met Office forecasts the overnight temperature will drop to zero or below.

We also use our discretion to activate SWEP during other severe weather. This can include snow on the ground, a sub-zero “feels like” forecast or a warmer night during a prolonged freezing spell.

On World Homeless Day 2019 we helped launch Oxford Homeless Movement, a new citywide partnership with the aim of ensuring that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford.

Oxford Homeless Movement includes and involves people with lived experience of homelessness. The partnership has produced an Oxford rough sleeping charter and is asking businesses, organisations and individuals to sign up to its vision and values – and to make a commitment to help end rough sleeping in Oxford.

The Oxford Homeless Movement website provides information on how to give time, money or help in kind to organisations supporting people sleeping rough. It also gives guidance and advice for people who need help.

You can make a donation to help people experiencing homelessness through the Oxford Homeless Movement website. All money raised by the partnership is split between:

  • charities providing services for homeless people in the city
  • the engagement and assessment hub in Floyds Row
  • an impact fund aimed at developing new services.

For more information, see the Oxford Homeless Movement website and follow the Oxford Homeless Movement on social media.