As the UK goes into lockdown, Oxford City Council is giving extra support to help prevent rough sleeping – including providing hotel rooms for up to 100 people now sleeping on the streets and in communal spaces in hostels.
The council is working closely with Public Health England, Thames Valley Police, Turning Point and outreach, supported housing and day service providers to help ensure the safety of homeless people during the coronavirus emergency.
All services in Oxford are working in line with government guidance to hostels and day centres for people experiencing rough sleeping.
The best way to help people is to get them to come inside and the outreach and assessment service (OxSPOT) is stepping up its efforts to support people experiencing rough sleeping. The assessment hub in Bonn Square has closed to enable a stronger outreach presence on the streets.
Outreach workers are providing phones to their clients and making sure they are aware of the symptoms of coronavirus and what to do if they suspect they may be infected. OxSPOT is also providing access to hand sanitising, giving people advice about handwashing – when they can – and ensuring they know what day services can provide.
Providing self-contained accommodation
As the coronavirus outbreak develops the council is following evolving guidance from Public Health England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on the best way to support people on the streets and in supported accommodation.
This already includes providing self-contained accommodation for people who are self-isolating.
When the council activated emergency beds last weekend because of freezing overnight weather self-contained accommodation was also provided in a city centre hotel leased for this purpose.
The council is working to the assumption that it will not be able to provide communal living spaces in projects like Floyds Row for much longer and is urgently identifying and securing more suitable self-contained accommodation for homeless people.
Up to 100 hotel or other self-contained rooms will be needed to accommodate everyone currently sleeping on the streets or in communal shelter spaces. To date the council has secured 21 hotel rooms and is currently exploring a range of other options for securing nearly 60 more.
The provision of self-contained rooms will mean that people can move from communal living spaces in Floyds Row, sit up (assessment) beds at O’Hanlon House and the Oxford Winter Night Shelter. Residents at O’Hanlon House and Matilda House will not be affected as they have self-contained accommodation with en suite bathrooms.
The council is working with The Porch day centre to support its plans for a mobile service delivering meals and essential items to people experiencing homelessness. These plans are under development and will include delivery to hotel rooms and other self-contained accommodation.
“Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and we’re working with outreach, supported housing and day services to protect vulnerable people on our streets and in supported housing from the coronavirus. We’re urgently looking for suitable self-contained accommodation to do this and I would ask hotels and organisations who can help to contact our rough sleeping and single homelessness team on 01865 249811.”
Councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for leisure and housing