Oxford City Council has appointed architects as part of the process to convert a former jobcentre into an assessment hub and winterlong emergency shelter to help rough sleepers off the streets.
The council has commissioned Oxford architects Jessop and Cook Architects and Transition by Design, who are working in collaboration to design and deliver the transformation of 1 Floyds Row into a new centre helping to prevent and reduce homelessness.
Transition by Design is already leading on the initial stages of work, which involve a strategic appraisal and definition of the project, the development of an initial project brief and the first concept design.
Transition by Design is working with potential service users – including people who are currently experiencing homelessness – to co-design the building. Among its key consultation findings so far are the need for a calm and functional environment, provision for dogs and a mix of different spaces including private space.
Jessop and Cook Architects will then produce a detailed technical design package to allow construction to begin and will oversee the works, which will be carried out by the council’s wholly owned social enterprise Oxford Direct Services.
Jessop and Cook Architects will be responsible for inspection, snagging and handover of the building before it opens this winter. This will also involve a post-occupancy evaluation looking at how Floyds Row operates and is used by services and people experiencing homelessness.
Once fully operational, Floyds Row will provide assessment services and shelter for up to 60 people experiencing homelessness or at risk of rough sleeping.
It is expected that 20 spaces will be temporary shelter of up to a week for people whose needs are being assessed, with another 20 beds reserved for people who have been assessed and are engaging with services to find suitable move on accommodation.
The remaining beds will be winterlong emergency accommodation available to anyone experiencing homelessness.
Councillors are expected to agree a plan this month that will allow Floyds Row to operate for up to five years. The council has already committed £184,000 to refurbishing the building and is seeking external funding – from the government and through fundraising activities by the Oxford Homeless Movement – to meet remaining capital costs.
Proposals for Floyds Row will be considered by the Housing Panel today and by the City Executive Board on Wednesday 10 April before a decision by full Council on Monday 29 April.
Transition by Design will be displaying regular project updates at Open House, 36 Little Clarendon Street, from now until October.
Councillor Linda Smith, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and Board Member for Leisure and Housing, said: “Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford, and the transformation of Floyds Row will be an important part of our plans to help realise this. I’m really pleased to have Transition by Design and Jessop and Cook Architects on board to design and deliver what will be a high quality flagship service, and that we’re involving people experiencing homelessness as an integral part of this process.”
Lucy Warin, Project Designer at Transition by Design, said: “We’re very excited to be working alongside people who have experienced what it’s like to be homeless in Oxford to design this building. Who better to design it then the people who know what it is like to spend time in such a place? We’re looking forward to bringing our skills in architecture, design and participatory city making to make this building work for as many people as possible.
“Through our work at Open House we’ve learnt a little about what some of the future visitors to this building might be going through. While people across Oxford are working hard to create a future where no one should have to sleep rough in our city, the reality is that it’s a situation that can happen more easily and quickly than many people realise. We hope that Floyds Row can be a welcoming environment to get people back on their feet.”
Dan Wadsworth and Harry Tuke, Jessop and Cook Architects, said: “To work on a project like this is very humbling and to hear people’s experiences of being homeless has been moving and enlightening. This has been crucial in learning how to create a homely place for people to stay safely. This is very much a collaborative approach between people and organisations to use their knowledge, skills and experiences. We are aiming for Floyds Row to set a new high standard for the city and others alike.”