In November, Oxfordshire’s five district councils undertook the annual estimates of people sleeping rough that contribute to English rough sleeping statistics released today (Thursday 27 February).
How many people are estimated to be sleeping rough
The councils estimate that there were 83 people experiencing rough sleeping across the county in November – a 30% decrease from the 2018 estimate of 119 people.
Three quarters of people experiencing rough sleeping are in Oxford itself, where Oxford City Council estimated that the number of people sleeping rough had fallen from 94 to 62 – a 34% reduction.
Vale of White Horse District Council also estimated that the number of people experiencing rough sleeping in its area had fallen, with a reduction from nine to three people – a 67% fall.
Even though outreach services verified nearly twice the number of people as in 2018, Cherwell District Council estimated that the number of people sleeping rough in its area remained at 11. As the number of people becoming homeless has grown, the council has helped more people by increasing its investment in outreach and providing new winter shelters.
South Oxfordshire District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council both estimated that rough sleeping in their areas had increased slightly.
South Oxfordshire District Council estimated an increase from three to four rough sleepers. In West Oxfordshire the council estimated that there were three people experiencing rough sleeping compared with two people in 2018.
How estimates are compiled
Estimates are intelligence-led snapshots based on data from councils, outreach teams, other service providers and local partners about the number of people sleeping rough on a particular night.
Estimates are compiled using national guidance from Homeless Link. They provide a relatively accurate picture of everyone sleeping rough in an area and can be effective in measuring trends and monitoring progress over time.
Oxford City Council also carries out street counts of people experiencing rough sleeping every two months and provides the annual estimate to enable a comparison of rough sleeping with its neighbouring councils. Estimates are a more appropriate way of evaluating rough sleeping in largely rural districts.
Partnership working in Oxfordshire
The lack of secure, genuinely affordable housing and the ongoing impact of welfare reform and austerity continue to present significant challenges to preventing and ending rough sleeping in Oxfordshire.
The five councils work together to reduce rough sleeping across the county and help people find the accommodation and support they need to leave homelessness behind.
The two year Oxfordshire Trailblazer project piloted early intervention to prevent people reaching crisis point and becoming homeless and the learning from this project has been used to help develop a new approach to tackling rough sleeping and homelessness. There is also a common procedure for activating emergency beds (SWEP) during freezing winter weather.
The councils are also committed to working collaboratively with Oxfordshire County Council and NHS partners.
A £846,600 pooled budget arrangement will provide 106 beds for people experiencing rough sleeping across the county in 2020/21. All partners are working to develop a countywide homelessness strategy. This strategy will ensure an effective whole system approach focused on prevention, early intervention and moving people on from rough sleeping.
"The number of people estimated to be experiencing rough sleeping across the county fell by 30% from 2018 to 2019 and that’s good news as nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxfordshire.
“We estimate that the number of people sleeping rough in Oxford itself has fallen by more than a third. We’re taking a new approach to tackling rough sleeping and the welcome reduction in the number of people we estimate are sleeping rough is also reflected in the street counts we carry out every two months. We counted 25 people sleeping on our streets in January and that’s the lowest number since the summer of 2015.
“There’s a lot of work still to do but I’m optimistic that we can sustain the progress we’ve made in reducing the number of people experiencing rough sleeping. We opened the first wing of our new assessment hub and shelter in Floyds Row last month and are investing £7.4 million in preventing homelessness and rough sleeping in the coming year.
“We’re also committed to working collaboratively with our neighbouring districts, Oxfordshire County Council and NHS partners to commission services and develop a countywide homelessness strategy focused on prevention, early intervention and moving people on from rough sleeping.”
Councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader of Oxford City Council and cabinet member for leisure and housing