Why there are so many rough sleepers in Oxford
Rough sleeping has increased in England in each of the last seven years, and in 2017 reached its highest level ever. The rise in street homelessness in recent years has been fuelled by factors that include 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 average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is 47 for men and 43 for women.
Street homelessness is dangerous, frightening and isolating. Rough sleepers are more likely to be victims of crime and exploitation, and are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence than the general public. A quarter of female rough sleepers have been sexually assaulted while sleeping on the streets.
Entrenched rough sleepers are more likely to develop additional physical and mental health needs and substance misuse issues, and to have contact with the criminal justice system. Collectively, these issues are known as complex needs – a combination of these can make it harder for rough sleepers to engage with support services, to move on from the streets and to rebuild their lives.
The national rise in rough sleeping is mirrored in Oxford, and it is an issue we take very seriously. While everybody notices how many rough sleepers there are, what they don’t see is the work that goes on to help more than 300 people move off the streets in the past year alone. We are spending more than £2 million in 2018/19 to prevent and reduce rough sleeping in Oxford.