Oxford City Council and its partners have launched a new website as part of the City Conversation on rough sleeping.
The council initiated the City Conversation at a conference on 28 November 2017. This brought together more than 100 organisations and individuals with an interest in developing a common approach to tackle the rise of street homelessness. The conference agreed on a common vision of ensuring that nobody has to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford.
The website cityconversation.org includes information from the initial City Conversation event and the latest data on rough sleeping in Oxford. It will also include news on recent and future developments.
The council and its partners have set up an interim steering group to take the City Conversation forward over the next few months. The interim steering group includes delegates from Aspire, St Mungo’s, Homeless Oxfordshire, The Porch Day Centre, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire Community Foundation, the University of Oxford, Thames Valley Police and Crisis Skylight.
The group held its first meeting last week and was joined by Jeremy Spafford, Director of Arts at the Old Fire Station, who facilitated the conference in November.
Drawing on feedback from the conference, the group will now develop a proposal for the establishment of a rough sleeping charter for Oxford and a wider partnership to deliver this. Stakeholders will be invited to comment on this proposal in the spring.
It is hoped that a citywide partnership will deliver a number of new initiatives to help tackle rough sleeping and related issues, including the development of a digital platform for people to donate to organisations helping homeless people in Oxford.
Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing, said: “Rough sleeping is the most visible sign of the national homelessness crisis, and I am delighted that so many organisations and people in Oxford are determined to work together to ensure that nobody has to sleep rough in the city. The cityconversation.org website and the setting up of an interim steering group are the first steps towards a rough sleeping charter for Oxford and a meaningful partnership that will help us realise our common goal.”
Claire Dowan, Chief Executive Officer of Homeless Oxfordshire, said: “Ensuring that nobody has to sleep on Oxford’s streets is a great vision but a challenging goal. However, if we can harness the collective passion and commitment that already exists to help rough sleepers to getting them off the streets permanently, we can achieve this. I look forward to working with colleagues and stakeholders to help ensure that the City Conversation is a success.”
Paul Roberts, Chief Executive Officer at Aspire, said: “Aspire welcomed the City Conversation initiative in November 2017 and we are happy to play our part to realise an effective, inclusive partnership to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness. The cityconversation.org website and interim steering group formation is an important first step to realise this partnership and we look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks and months as the interim group gets going."
Sue Jackson, Oxford Outreach Manager at St Mungo’s, said: “Rough sleeping is a terribly complex issue arising from a wide range of causes. These include problems with physical or mental health, relationship breakdown, loss of a job or a tenancy, and cuts to benefits or support services.
“At St Mungo’s, we work with a wide range of other services in Oxford to help people off the streets and towards a safe place they can call home. We are excited to be involved in the next stage of the City Conversation, working with our partners and other voices, including the public, to make our vision a reality for all rough sleepers in Oxford who want to get off the streets.”