Rough-sleeping continues to be a serious challenge in Oxford.
A street count conducted in Oxford at the beginning of November found 33 people rough sleeping, down from 39 in 2015. However, the council and homeless organisations estimate that at least 47 people could be sleeping rough on any given night, down from 56 in 2015.
The count was carried out by officers from Oxford City Council and staff from a number of organisations working with rough sleepers and homeless people in the city, including the Oxford Street Population Outreach Team (St Mungo’s). An independent verifier appointed by DCLG also took part in the count in order to ensure the count process was conducted appropriately and followed the set guidance.
Once a year, between 1 October and 31 November, all local authorities in England carry out street counts or estimates of the number of rough sleepers in their area in line with Homeless Link guidance. The number of rough sleepers identified in a count or estimate is then reported to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing, said: “We remain concerned with street homelessness in the city, even though the number of rough sleepers counted on the particular night has declined compared to last year. We applaud the good work and support offered by the many organisations within the sector to some of the most vulnerable people in our city.
However, rough sleeping is a big issue in Oxford and we want to continue to support the organisations that make a difference. We are increasingly concerned about the effects of the County Council cuts to the funding available to homeless hostels and supported accommodation for rough sleepers.
We have committed to enter into a pooled budget with districts and county councils, and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, to mitigate the effects of the cuts. But the bottom line is that there will be less money available from 1 April 2017 due to the cuts and this means fewer beds for homeless people in the city and across the county.“
Pressure on homeless services in Oxford is increasing and housing costs are unaffordable to those on benefits or low incomes. The City Council has invested £5 million, with another £5 million in match funding from Resonance Ltd for a Real Lettings scheme that will provide a number of homes with low rents for people in housing need. Five of these homes will be specifically designated to people who are moving from homeless hostels or supported accommodation in the city.
The City Council has this year committed £1.4m to prevent homelessness and tackle rough sleeping. This funding is allocated to a number of different agencies that tackle a range of different issues that cause and lead to homelessness.