What we do to tackle homelessness

How we help rough sleepers

Beds and services for rough sleepers in Oxford used to be largely funded through £1.8m of grants and funding allocations from Oxford City Council and £2m of grants from Oxfordshire County Council. Regrettably, due to a huge reduction in the amount of money it receives from central Government, Oxfordshire County Council has decided to reduce its funding of homelessness services to £500,000 in 2018/19. The County may provide a further £500,000 in funding for 2019/20, but has said that this will be subject to consultation.

At the same time, the number of people sleeping rough in Oxford is increasing. The official street count, which is carried out by every district in the country, revealed that 61 people were sleeping rough in Oxford – a dramatic increase from the 33 in 2016. But the City Council and homeless organisations estimate the number could be as many as 89 people – up from 47 in 2016.

We fund and provide a wide range of support services and accommodation for Oxford’s rough sleepers. The focus over the last year has been to mitigate the impact of Oxfordshire County Council’s funding cuts. But it is important to note that we do not have a statutory duty to provide this funding or these services. However, we see it as our humanitarian responsibility to help.

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 9 am to 3:30 pm every day. 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 100.5 hours a week.

Simon House, a hostel in Oxford that helps rough sleepers with complex needs, was due to close in March 2018 as a direct result of Oxfordshire County Council’s funding cuts. However, we have provided the hostel with £200,000 of funding to keep 22 of the beds open until April 2019 to allow time for a new facility to be built at another location in the City.

We have provided £1.1m to enable A2Dominion, the leaseholder and support provider at Simon House, to build bespoke supported accommodation next to the John Allen Centre in Cowley. The new facility will provide 22 units of complex needs accommodation with staff on-site 24 hours a day, with a further 15 units of move-on accommodation for people with low support needs as they move towards independent living. Work is due to start on the new facility in the spring of 2018, subject to planning approval.

We have also provided an additional £160,000 to Response Housing and Oxford Homeless Pathways. This money will be used to double the number of beds at the Acacia housing project from five to 10 in the next two years. The Acacia project, which is based on the US Housing First model, has proved successful at resettling people whose multiple and complex needs make it difficult for them to manage in other types of supported housing.

In 2018/19 we provide £1.8m of grants and funding allocations to Oxford’s homelessness organisations to fund a wide range of support services. Much of these support services are targeted at early intervention to stop people from becoming homeless.

Funding targeted at helping existing rough sleepers aims to support them through what is known as the homeless pathway. This is the path from sleeping on the streets; through hostels and supported accommodation; with support services to help with employment, training, or any substance abuse or mental health issues; and finally to helping people into permanent accommodation and work.

In 2018/19 the grants funded the following organisations:

Organisation Purpose of grant Allocation
Contribution to Oxfordshire Adult Homelessness Pathway Pooled Budget Provision of supported housing £161,700
Housing First, Julian Housing Funding for one full time( FTE) support worker and 0.5 FTE peer support worker for this specialist housing project. The project offers an alternative supported housing model – five units – for rough sleepers entrenched in homelessness. £47,850
O’Hanlon House Funding to provide 10 additional spaces to manage the high number of rough sleepers. £54,903
Response Funding for 5 additional units of specialist supported housing for people with complex needs £47,850
Response Funding for 5 specialist supported housing units for people with complex needs. The Acacia Project builds on the Housing First model and has developed as a result of recognition by housing and mental health service commissioners of an increasing number of people who “fall between the gaps” of mental health services and homelessness services, getting ineffective support from either or both due to their needs. £47,850
Dispersed supported accommodation Forty one units of supported accommodation for rough sleepers/single homeless with a connection to Oxford. The Provision is for medium- to low-support needs, with a focus on support to enable residents to move on to and sustain independent accommodation. £150,000
A2Dominion Funding for a transitional service of up to 25 units of supported accommodation at Simon House for people with complex needs and a connection to Oxford City. This allocation will retain the facility of Simon House which would otherwise have closed as a result of County Council funding cuts. This provision will maintain capacity in the City allowing time for the development of a new facility for rough sleepers and single homeless people in the Cowley area, to open [subject to planning permission] 2019/20. £200,000
Mayday Trust Funding for 10 units of supported accommodation for people with complex needs, in dispersed locations. This allocation will retain these units of supported accommodation for rough sleepers and single homeless people which would otherwise have closed as a result of County Council funding cuts. £39,272
Street Population Outreach Team, St Mungo’s Funding a team of nine FTE. The team delivers assertive outreach, reconnection, personalisation and advice services for rough sleepers/single homeless. It assists rough sleepers to access suitable accommodation and support – in Oxford, Oxfordshire or elsewhere – with the aim to reduce the number of individuals spending a second night on the streets, living on the streets and returning to the streets. £350,893
Severe Weather Emergency Provision Funding to provide emergency beds in periods of severe weather to all rough sleepers. £30,000
Specialist Homelessness Liaison Officer/Service, Thames Valley Police Funding for TVP City Centre Unit to provide targeted support to reduce rough sleeping. TVP City Centre Unit has a dedicated police constable for the purpose of this work. £30,000
Day Services for rough sleepers, O’Hanlon House Provision of day services – showers and laundry facilities, as well as breakfast and lunch and any other activities taking place – for individuals rough sleeping in Oxford and working with outreach services to access suitable accommodation. £82,778
City Centre Ambassadors, Oxford City Council Part of the City Centre Ambassadors’ work includes engaging with homeless people and referring them into the appropriate support services. £17,500
Preventing Homelessness Tenancy Sustainment Officer, Elmore Community Services Funding for one FTE specialist sustainment officer to support residents in Oxford City Council accommodation to maintain their tenancies. £35,630
Pre-Tenancy Training Course, Connection Support Funding to provide courses to help 50 people develop a range of skills that will enable them to become tenancy ready. £16,000
Welfare Reform Team, Oxford City Council Funding contributes towards the work of the team focussing mitigating the impact of welfare reform across the City. £82,000
Target Hardening/Sanctuary Scheme, Oxford City Council Funding provided for a post in the Anti-Social Behaviour Team to support victims of domestic abuse and enable them to stay in their own homes. £30,000
Education, training and employment workers, Aspire Funding for two FTE Education, Training and Employment workers to provide training and employment opportunities for homeless and/or vulnerably housed individuals in Oxford. £77,623
Emmaus Community Oxford Core funding for Emmaus to provide accommodation in their community and work opportunities in their second-hand furniture social enterprise. £10,000
Day Centre, The Porch Core funding for The Porch (formerly known as Steppin’ Stone) daycentre to support rough sleepers and those vulnerably housed through a range of activities, training and education and where appropriate sign post clients to more appropriate services. £55,000
Service Broker, The Big Issue Foundation Funding for one FTE to support Big Issue sellers into accommodation and into sustainable work opportunities. £12,500
Gatehouse Café Core funding for the Gatehouse café to support and engage hard-to-reach clients to access accommodation and specialist support. £5,580
Emergency Bed for Oxford city, Oxfordshire County Council Funding provides one emergency bed within the Young Person’s pathway for use by Oxford city. £6,134
Single Homelessness Team, Oxford City Council Funding contribution towards the Council’s Rough Sleeping and Single Homelessness Team. £120,000
Private Rented Move-on assistance Funding to enable access to private rented accommodation for individuals moving on from the adult homeless pathway. Funds will assist with deposit and accessible for individuals with a connection to the City. £0
Oxford CHAIN database, Real Systems Core funding to maintain web-based database management system that collates data and provides monitoring reports on rough sleeping. £4,396
In-year commissioning Funding has been put aside in order for officers to respond to unmet need by commissioning services addressing emerging service gaps. £0
    £1,715,459

In our draft budget, we have proposed increasing the £1.4m of annual grants to homelessness organisations by £200,000 every year from 2019/20.

In January 2017, we, along with Oxfordshire’s district councils, began a programme to help vulnerable single adults under the age of 35, and households, at risk of homelessness.

The programme is preventing at risk individuals from becoming homeless by identifying what services they need and what works best for them. The work is focussing on three areas:

  • Targeted prevention and outreach work: Officers from across the city and district councils actively seeking out those who may be at risk, and working with them to understand what could cause them to become homeless
  • Resilience Services: Providing a range of services, including financial and employment advice and mentoring, to encourage behavioural change
  • Homeless Champions Network: Homeless champions to work with key services, including health services and criminal justice, to assess individuals and help plan their discharge

The joint bid, led by Oxford City Council was awarded £790,000 by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in December 2016.

Churches across Oxford opened their doors during January, February and March 2018 to provide emergency accommodation for the city’s rough sleepers.

The seven churches – St Aldate’s, St Alban’s, St Clement’s, St Columba’s, St Ebbe’s, St Michael and the Northgate and Wesley Memorial –each opened their doors on a different night of the week.

The scheme provided up to 10 beds for Oxford’s rough sleepers on a first come, first serve basis.

The Churches will again be providing support to the city’s rough sleepers during January, February and March 2019.

For more information and to donate to the project, please visit: http://oxfordanglican.co.uk/oxford-churches-team-up-to-offer-emergency-night-shelter/.

We fund the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), which provides emergency accommodation to everyone who needs it when the temperature is forecast to fall to 0°C or below for three consecutive nights. Oxford City Council is by far the largest provider of SWEP provision in Oxfordshire. There is no legal requirement to operate the SWEP but the City Council believes that it has a humanitarian responsibility in the face of the scale of rough sleeping in the city.

Although funded by the City Council, the SWEP is operated by experienced, professional staff at St Mungo’s Outreach, the Porch, O’Hanlon House and Simon House. Whenever SWEP opens these employees step up from their core duties to carry out the extra hours of work required.

We increased SWEP services this year by opening for seven nights over the Christmas and New Year period, and no one was turned away because of a lack of space. On some nights as few as five people used the service. With the current level of SWEP provision and the City Council's agreement with  churches in Oxford to open 10 new beds every night between January and March as part of their Oxford Winter Night Shelter (OWNS) initiative, we believe that there is enough support to help all those rough sleepers who wish to get off the streets and access accommodation. 

In November 2017, more than 100 stakeholders came together to discuss rough sleeping and homelessness in Oxford. The City Conversation, organised by Oxford City Council, included representatives from Oxfordshire’s homelessness organisations; health and mental health providers; faith groups; councils, the police and other public bodies; local councillors; and people with actual experience of rough sleeping.

The aim of the City Conversation, which was the largest conversation of its kind to take place in Oxford, was to start to find a common understanding of what causes rough sleeping and street homelessness in Oxford, and to find the means to tackle the issue collectively.

The first conversation saw a number of core principles and possible objectives going forward agreed between the 100 delegates. Going forwards, the stakeholders will work towards agreeing a Rough Sleeping Charter for Oxford by April 2018, which will provide guiding principles for all concerned to help address the issue.

You can read more about the City Conversation in our news release