Oxford City Council has agreed up to £1.5 million in funding to support former rough sleepers in the city over the next six years.
Simon House was due to close in March 2018 as a result of Oxfordshire County Council reducing its funding for homelessness services. Oxford City Council will now provide £200,000 in transitional funding to keep 22 beds open for rough sleepers with complex needs and a connection to Oxford.
This transitional funding will last until April 2019, while A2Dominion, the leaseholder and support provider at Simon House, seeks to build bespoke supported accommodation next to the John Allen Centre in Cowley. The new facility will provide 22 units of complex needs accommodation with staff onsite 24 hours a day, with a further 15 units of move-on accommodation for people with low support needs as they move towards independent living.
The council has agreed to provide a further £1.1 million to enable A2Dominion to provide support services at the new supported housing facility for up to five years. A2Dominion has today submitted a planning application for the new Rymers Lane facility, with work on the site due to start in March 2018.
The council will continue discussions with A2Dominion about redeveloping the Simon House site. It hopes to secure a viable mixed residential development that is compliant with the council’s planning policy.
The council’s funding plans also include an additional £160,000 for partners Response Housing and Oxford Homeless Pathways to double the Acacia housing project from five to ten beds in the next two years. The Acacia project is based on the US Housing First model, which has proved successful in resettling people whose multiple and complex needs make it difficult for them to manage in supported housing environments.
Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing, said: “Even though Oxford City Council already does more than most councils to tackle homelessness, the national homelessness crisis which engulfs our streets means we needed to do even more. Oxfordshire County Council funding cuts have left Oxford’s homelessness services facing an unprecedented challenge. The £1.5 million in additional funding we have agreed demonstrates our faith in those services and their ability to get people off the streets, and shows our commitment to helping Oxford’s rough sleepers, the most visible victims of the national homelessness crisis.”
“Building new supported housing offers us the opportunity to provide a bespoke service that meets the needs of the city’s rough sleepers as they move from the streets towards independent living. We are also providing extra funding which recognises that the most vulnerable homeless people find it hard to cope with supported housing environments.”
Pam Vasir, Group Director of Supported Housing at A2Dominion, said: “We are delighted that Oxford City Council has agreed funding to keep Simon House open while we build a replacement facility for Oxford’s homeless. The new facility will allow us to provide support services and move-on accommodation to help people back into the community. We expect to start work on building the new hostel in March 2018, and to open it in April 2019. In the meantime, we will continue to provide services for Oxford’s homeless people at Simon House, including emergency beds this winter under the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol.”