Oxford City Council has agreed a £1.85m grant budget to help prevent rough sleeping and single homelessness – a 17% increase on 2021/22.
Last week, cabinet agreed the record investment in homelessness prevention grants in support of a new £3.8m ‘housing led’ service tackling homelessness across Oxfordshire from 1 April.
The countywide homelessness service is the culmination of three years of work between Oxfordshire’s six councils, the NHS, Crisis and local partners – including people with lived experience of rough sleeping – to develop a system wide approach to tackling homelessness. This puts homelessness prevention, collective responsibility and effective joint working at its heart.
The result of this work is a new default model for preventing and reducing rough sleeping as well as more jointly funded services.
New service, new model
Traditionally, people who have experienced rough sleeping in the UK have tended to move from the streets to independent living in stages. This approach assumes that people need to engage with support services before they are ready to move on to the next stage.
Housing led approaches like Housing First instead say that people should be offered permanent housing immediately and without preconditions like engaging with treatment services. Wraparound support can then be provided to help them maintain their tenancies.
A housing led approach will now be the default response to ending rough sleeping in Oxfordshire from April.
More jointly funded services, more beds
The council currently contributes £219,030 to a £846,000 pooled budget with other Oxfordshire councils and the NHS. This provides a total of 106 jointly commissioned beds, with 79 of these reserved for people with a local connection to Oxford. The council also commissions another 151 beds on top of this, meaning that 231 beds are now available to people experiencing rough sleeping in Oxford.
From April, the council’s contribution to the pooled budget will increase to £1,911,399. This includes £985,580 in homelessness prevention grants, with the remainder coming through government Rough Sleeper Initiative funding.
The pooled Oxfordshire budget will provide 236 beds available to anyone experiencing rough sleeping in Oxford. The council will also continue to directly commission 96 beds under existing commitments – meaning that 334 beds will be available in total.
Supported accommodation (£1,379,780)
In addition to the £968,580 contribution to the pooled Oxfordshire budget, the council will make grants of £411,200 for a range of supported accommodation provided by A2Dominion, Response and Connection Support.
A further £30,000 will be used to provide emergency shelter (SWEP) during severe winter weather.
Street engagement (£47,500)
Funding for street engagement allows the council’s street ambassador team and Thames Valley Police to engage with people experiencing rough sleeping – helping them to access services and to prevent anti-social behaviour.
Positive activities and help to get into work (£186,867)
Positive activities grants provide core funding for The Porch day centre and The Gatehouse café, whose services include showers and laundry, food, training and education and a range of activities.
These grants also include new day services and funding for the women’s hub launched by Aspire and The Gatehouse in October.
Employment support funding allows Aspire to provide training and employment opportunities for homeless and vulnerably housed people.
These grants include a contribution towards the council’s rough sleeping and single homeless team and £25,000 in match funding for Greater Change.
Greater Change helps people leave homelessness behind by providing financial support like rent in advance, deposits and training courses.
“We’re taking a new, collective approach to tackling rough sleeping in Oxfordshire. Oxford City Council is providing the investment needed to deliver this successfully and underline our commitment to valuing people and their potential.
“No one should sleep rough on the streets of Oxfordshire and our ‘housing led’ approach is a further step towards ensuring a brighter, better and more hopeful future for everyone in the county.”
Councillor Diko Walcott, cabinet member for affordable housing, housing security and housing the homeless