Protecting and vaccinating people experiencing rough sleeping

Published: Wednesday, 29th December 2021

Oxford City Council is laying on extra help for people experiencing rough sleeping to come inside and get vaccinated this winter.

Many people experiencing rough sleeping have multiple unmet needs that can include substance dependencies, mental health needs and trauma, including the experience of domestic abuse. These needs can put people at severe risk from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant and create challenges for services trying to engage with them.

To provide protection from the new variant and boost vaccination rates, the council is working to secure Covid-safe accommodation for people experiencing rough sleeping and linking with NHS partners to help them get fully jabbed. This will include first and second doses for people not previously fully vaccinated as well as boosters.

The council has already secured 13 self-contained rooms and is actively pursuing options to provide more for those individuals willing to be accommodated over the duration of the winter. This work includes discussions with hotels, Brookes University and current service providers.

If you are able to provide self-contained accommodation for people who are rough sleeping, the council would like to hear from you. The type of accommodation that is required needs to be able to house five people or more in individual rooms with en-suite bathroom facilities.

While Oxford took a lead in vaccinating people experiencing rough sleeping in March, in general vaccination rates among people sleeping rough in England are low and most people housed under the ‘everyone in’ initiative have subsequently moved on into more settled accommodation. People experiencing rough sleeping now are likely to have returned to the streets after being accommodated or to be newly homeless.

The council is working on an action plan with NHS partners on the best way to engage with people and overcome barriers to getting them fully jabbed. These include uncertainty about vaccination status, vaccine hesitation in a group that can often have low trust in authority, and how and where to carry out vaccinations.

There is no requirement to have an NHS number or be registered with a GP to get vaccinated. People who have lost or don’t have access to benefits and housing will still be eligible for a jab and emergency housing.

The council has been allocated £335,592 by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in order to carry out the Protect and Vaccinate programme.

“The onset of winter and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant puts people experiencing rough sleeping at severe risk. We know people sleeping rough are particularly vulnerable. We are therefore pleased to have additional funding from DLUHC which allows us to provide more accommodation with local partners. We are also working with the NHS to protect more people through vaccinations as quickly as possible, building on our successful previous campaign.”

Councillor Susan Brown, leader of Oxford City Council