Transforming homelessness services: Floyds Row opens

Published: Wednesday, 15th January 2020

Oxford City Council’s new approach to reducing rough sleeping is taking a big step forward with the opening of an assessment centre and shelter in Floyds Row.

Floyds Row will move the first conversations with people sleeping rough from the streets into a warm, calm and safe space co-designed by people experiencing homelessness that will provide the shelter and support they need to rebuild their lives.

The council is commissioning St Mungo’s to run Floyds Row and handed the building over on Monday (13 January). Assessment services and beds for people at risk of or experiencing rough sleeping will open on Thursday (16 January).

Transforming homelessness services

Floyds Row is the centrepiece of the council’s plans to transform services that will help people at risk of and experiencing homelessness across Oxfordshire.

The council is working collaboratively with NHS partners and Oxfordshire’s five other councils to develop a countywide homelessness strategy. This strategy will create an effective whole system approach focused on prevention, early intervention and moving people on from rough sleeping.

Floyds Row’s role in this transformation programme is to get people off the streets and into sustainable housing more quickly through improved assessment and a range of new accommodation and support services. This includes include access to onsite drug, alcohol and medical support.

The key to helping people off the streets is effective engagement and this begins with the first conversation with someone experiencing rough sleeping. This conversation is often the most challenging and this can be particularly the case for people who have been sleeping rough long term or who repeatedly return to the streets.

Floyds Row will move this conversation from the streets into a warm, calm and safe space co-designed by people experiencing homelessness that will be open round the clock all year round. Expert assessment workers will help people to develop personal housing plans and get the support they need from other services to move on into sustainable accommodation.

St Mungo’s recent experience of delivering similar services in London and the south of England has seen four fifths of people leaving the streets behind for good.

Services opening at Floyds Row

Floyds Row is opening in stages and its first occupants will move from the Somewhere Safe to Stay service and winterlong shelter now running at Simon House.

Somewhere Safe to Stay offers beds for up to seven nights for people at risk of sleeping rough and new rough sleepers while they participate in an intensive “right first time” assessment. This identifies suitable housing and links people with the other support they need to leave homelessness behind.

A rough sleeper’s ability to access shelter usually depends on whether they have a local connection to Oxford and whether they can claim benefits or housing. To help realise the council’s vision that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford the winter shelter is available to anyone experiencing rough sleeping.

When the Met Office forecasts that the overnight temperature will drop to zero or below the council activates its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) and makes extra beds available for anybody who wants to come inside. Floyds Row will now be one of Oxford’s three SWEP venues.

Reaction from Oxford City Council and St Mungo’s

“The transformation of services for people experiencing rough sleeping in Oxfordshire is already underway through our work to deliver a countywide homelessness strategy and the opening of Somewhere Safe to Stay and a winterlong shelter.

“The opening of Floyds Row is a fundamental change to the front end of homelessness services and it will be a catalyst for change across the wider system. I’m proud we’re delivering on our commitment to provide more and better support to people experiencing rough sleeping.

“Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and thanks to the hard work and commitment of our staff and all our partners we’ll have the best chance of achieving this ambition once Floyds Row is fully open in April.”

Councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for leisure and housing

“Our thanks to everyone who has worked so hard together to reach this point where we can offer such excellent, safe and comfortable shelter to people coming in from rough sleeping on the streets. Once people are here, then it’s the opportunity for staff to talk individually about what they want long term and the options available. We hope this service, and the support St Mungo’s will provide, will help people to begin to rebuild their lives and leave homelessness behind.”

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s

“Floyds Row provides an opportunity to take a new approach to addressing the humanitarian tragedy of rough sleeping which has such a great impact on the population of Oxford. I’ve enjoyed working with Transition by Design and Jessop and Cook Architects, who have been truly ambitious in their vision. They really understand the importance of creating an environment that is psychologically informed and provides an ideal setting for client assessment.

“There is still a lot of work to do before April when the whole service opens, both on the building and on the implementation of the services. This is an exciting time and I look forward to continuing to work closely with St Mungo’s to ensure that Oxford is somewhere where nobody has to sleep rough.“

Polly McKinlay, senior commissioning officer at Oxford City Council

Design and delivery

Oxford architects Transition by Design and Jessop and Cook Architects worked together to deliver Floyds Row, with Transition by Design leading on a design process that included consultation with people experiencing homelessness.

This consultation helped establish the design principles that Floyds Row should be welcoming, calm and familiar, with a homely feel. Floyds Row is dog friendly and contains a mix of different spaces including women only and private space.

“Visitors to Floyds Row will include people of Oxford at their lowest ebb. It's been a pleasure to work alongside Oxford City Council and Jessop and Cook Architects to ensure that these people are able to get a good night's sleep, find the help they need, and feel as comfortable and safe as possible during a very difficult time. 

“Throughout the consultation Transition by Design listened carefully to what people had to say: about dogs, security, separate provision for women, activities, and about sound, light and air. We've tried our best to create a space which helps people to get back on their feet as quickly as possible. 

“We want to thank the many people experiencing homelessness who have taken the time to give us their input on the design of Floyds Row. It is their insight and creativity which has enabled what we hope will be a fantastic new hub for Oxford's efforts to prevent anybody from needing to sleep rough on our city's streets.”

Lucy Warin, project designer at Transition by Design

"It has been a pleasure to bring completion of the first phase of Floyds Row which has been a real joint effort, working with Oxford City Council, ODS, Transition by Design, CBG and the many local consultants and trades involved.

“It is a joy to refurbish a wonderful and unique old building in Oxford. In phase one we uncovered a wonderful large, original laylight that brings natural light into the impressive vaulted space alongside the original windows. The improvements include secondary glazing and roof insulation that have made the building much more energy efficient as well as entirely new lighting and ventilation. These have helped bring the building up to date while honouring its historic features.

“The project was guided by talking to people who will use the building and using psychologically informed environment principles, aiming to make people feel calm and safe through a variety of openness and privacy. This involves natural surveillance, informal separation of spaces and a reliance on homely features such as lampshades, soft furnishings and warm colours. We have made a feature of the entrance with a series of new timber structures and new lighting. These aim to give a more welcoming feel to the project alongside the internal finishes.

“It has been a very rewarding experience and we truly hope the new facilities help people in difficult circumstances.”

Harry Tuke, Jessop and Cook Architects

Completing Floyds Row and other services

The conversion of the former jobcentre is being undertaken by ODS, the council’s wholly owned company that operates like a social enterprise.

When ODS has completed construction in April Floyds Row will provide an assessment service and up to 56 beds for people at risk of or experiencing rough sleeping.

Somewhere Safe to Stay and the winterlong shelter will provide up to 20 and 16 beds respectively.

There will be another 20 “staging post” beds for people who have been assessed by Somewhere Safe to Stay and need more time to move on to other accommodation.

Services currently provided at the multi-agency hub in Bonn Square will also transfer to Floyds Row in April.

“We are very proud to have played a part in providing some relief to the homelessness crisis by providing excellent facilities to the disadvantaged people of our local community.

“Our motivation comes from our values - working to improve the lives of those we work on behalf of, we call that ‘doing good’.

“Given the fluidity of the project, we have faced many challenges which gave us the opportunity to demonstrate a great deal of flexibility and cohesive working with the project designers. We would like to thank the team - our operatives, subcontractors and partners - for the team work they all demonstrated which has been pivotal in order to help us overcome the pressures of this high profile project and ultimately deliver it.”

Ian Batchelor ACIOB, director of construction & building services, ODS