How we help homeless families
In 2015 we partnered with Resonance Real Lettings property fund, with both organisations contributing £5 million to buy houses in or near Oxford for local families that would otherwise be homeless. The partnership includes homelessness charity St Mungo’s Broadway, which manages the properties, provides support services and arranges moves on to sustainable accommodation. In 2016 we contributed another £10 million for temporary accommodation purchase and in 2018/19 we committed a further £5 million to the fund.
Our work to prevent Oxford families from becoming homeless goes far beyond just buying houses, and includes:
- a £50,000 emergency fund to help new Universal Credit claimants. New claimants have to wait at least five weeks before they get their first full payment of Universal Credit and the fund aims to help with their utilities, food and essential living costs during that wait
- supporting households affected by the benefit cap, bedroom tax and other cuts to their housing benefit with discretionary housing payments (DHPs). In 2018/19 we have a £405,010 DHP grant from the Department for Work and Pensions, which we use to top up rent shortfalls while customers work with our Welfare Reform Team to improve their financial circumstances and sustain their tenancies. In 2019/20 our DHP grant will reduce to £336,825
- a pilot Rent Guarantee Scheme, helping families threatened with homelessness into private tenancies by offering guaranteed rent and tenancy management support to landlords while we work with their tenants to improve their financial situation
- as part of our 2018/19 annual grants programme, giving £518,379 to organisations providing advice and money management - including £190,000 to Citizens Advice Oxford, £81,026 to Agnes Smith Advice Centre and £116,480 to Oxford Community Work Agency
- granting £61,082 to community safety projects - including £15,000 to Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre to provide a telephone helpline service
- retaining more than 7,800 council houses to provide affordable homes to Oxford families
- building and buying hundreds of new council houses across Oxford - including 354 homes for social rent as part of the Barton Park housing development.
In 2004, the number of otherwise homeless Oxford families in temporary accommodation (hotels or B&Bs) stood at 1,000. In February 2019, there were just 94 households in temporary accommodation - a sharp contrast to the national trend, which has seen a big increase in the number of households in temporary accommodation since March 2011.
In 2017/18, we and our partners prevented 1,159 households from becoming homeless. And we have now almost abandoned the use of hotels and B&Bs to house otherwise homeless Oxford families. Of the 94 households in temporary accommodation in February 2019, none were in hotels or B&Bs.
But the pressure on families in Oxford is increasing. More than 100 households every month are now approaching us as homeless and requesting assistance.