Oxford City Council and Aspire win £1m to help ensure no return to the streets

Published: Wednesday, 23rd September 2020

Oxford City Council and Aspire have been awarded £1 million in government funding to help ensure no return to the streets for vulnerable homeless people.

The funding is the result of a successful bid to the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) and the council and Aspire will receive a total of £1,064,545. This will be split three ways:

  • £897,233 will help the council provide 124 rooms of interim housing for former rough sleepers and people who had been living in shared hostels before the pandemic
  • £25,000 will help people move into more settled private rented housing by paying for deposits and rent in advance
  • £142,312 will help Aspire to refurbish empty properties and bring them back into use as move-on accommodation for people who have experienced homelessness.

The NSAP is run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the funding now awarded will help provide services for the remainder of 2020/21. The MHCLG is still considering a bid for long-term capital funding that will help the council to buy properties for use as Housing First accommodation.

Greater Change will match fund the £25,000 helping people into private rented housing.

Housing vulnerable homeless people during the pandemic

On 26 March, the government issued an ‘everyone in’ direction for English councils to provide emergency housing for rough sleepers and vulnerable homeless people to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In Oxford, this included people sleeping on the streets and those in Floyds Row and the sit up (assessment) service at O’Hanlon House.

The council moved quickly to comply and secured 121 self-contained hotel and student rooms within two weeks of the direction. As lockdown eased and leasing agreements with hotels and colleges came to an end in July, the council leased the YHA and Canterbury House to provide 124 rooms of interim housing for another year.

Interim housing is a bridge between emergency lockdown arrangements and more sustainable housing. It also means that the council can provide accommodation and support for people becoming homeless now and in the coming months – including winter beds that were provided in shared spaces before the pandemic.

So far the council has housed 241 people under ‘everyone in’ arrangements. Of these, 93 have been supported into more permanent housing and this includes a number of people who had been sleeping rough on a long term basis.

“Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and this funding will help us to move people from the streets and emergency accommodation into more permanent housing. ‘Everyone in’ gave us a unique opportunity to engage with people in emergency accommodation and we are now building on that.

“The certainty of a safe bed during lockdown gave many people the bit of stability they needed to start having conversations about leaving the streets behind for good. We’ve helped 93 people to move on into more sustainable housing, and this is something we are going to keep doing.

“The NSAP funding also means we’ll be able to keep offering housing and support to people who become homeless over the coming months, including winter beds that were provided in shared spaces before the pandemic.”

Councillor Mike Rowley, cabinet member for affordable housing and housing the homeless

"Aspire is honoured to be awarded this grant from the Ministry of Housing via Oxford City Council. The timing of this funding support could not be better. It will enable us to complete the conversion of the remaining three of the five vacant properties in central Oxford made available by one of the Oxford Colleges.

“This will provide move-on accommodation and dedicated support for another 17 homeless persons currently temporarily housed in hotels. We look forward to our continued partnership with Oxford City Council as we deliver this project and help prevent a return to pre-Covid19 levels of homelessness in Oxford."  

Paul Roberts, CEO of Aspire