Oxfordshire councils win cold weather funding to help people experiencing homelessness

Published: Monday, 9th December 2019

Five Oxfordshire councils have won more than £92,000 in government funding to support homeless people this winter.

The £92,708 award from the Cold Weather Fund will help the county’s city and district councils provide services for people experiencing homelessness. These include up to 24 beds across Oxfordshire.

The Cold Weather Fund award will support a number of projects.

Cherwell District Council is commissioning five winter beds in Banbury for people with complex needs and £25,000 will help meet running costs and to provide individual tenancy support to residents. This will help them to engage with health and support services and maintain their accommodation through budgeting and claiming all necessary benefits.

A further £25,000 goes towards personal accommodation plans for people in Oxford who are rough sleeping or at risk of doing so and whose needs are harder to meet in a hostel or winter shelter – an example would be using council temporary accommodation for someone leaving prison who wants to avoid contact with alcohol or drugs.

£18,750 will fund the employment of a hospital-based embedded housing worker with a countywide remit. The embedded housing worker will advise NHS staff on housing and homelessness prevention options, helping them provide better support to their own patients. An example of this would be preventing delayed transfer of care (“bed blocking”) by helping someone find or return to accommodation.

Embedded housing workers in hospitals helped end or prevent homelessness for half (49 percent) of completed cases during the pilot Oxfordshire Trailblazer project that ended earlier this year.

£15,000 will help provide accommodation and extra staffing at the winterlong shelter that opened in Oxford at the beginning of November. The winter shelter provides up to 13 beds that are open to anyone experiencing homelessness – whether or not they have a local connection or recourse to public funds.

The winter shelter is currently operating on an interim basis at Simon House and will transfer to the new assessment centre and shelter in Floyds Row in January. Access to the winter shelter is through the assessment and outreach team, OxSPOT.

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils are providing six winter beds for people experiencing rough sleeping in their areas. £8,958 will allow the councils to employ two night time workers and safely increase capacity for these extra beds in an existing supported accommodation project.

"Cold weather funding means more beds and better support for people experiencing homelessness across Oxfordshire – not just from councils, but also in the NHS. In Oxford, we’ll be better equipped to meet the needs of people who would face difficulties in supported accommodation and those who wouldn’t usually qualify for a bed in our homeless pathway.”

Stephen Clarke, head of housing services at Oxford City Council

"This funding is very welcome and will enable us to expand the work we do to help rough sleepers off the streets and in to longer term, safer and locally based accommodation during the colder and wetter winter months.”

Gillian Douglas, assistant director, housing and social care commissioning at Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government runs the Cold Weather Fund.