Oxford City Council and its City Conversation partners have agreed the next steps towards the development of a Rough Sleeping Charter and a citywide partnership to tackle rough sleeping in Oxford.
The interim City Conversation steering group has agreed to produce a proposal for the Charter and citywide partnership in the early summer. It will then ask people and organisations with an interest in tackling street homelessness – including current and former rough sleepers – for their views on the proposal, their suggestions for improving it, and their ideas about how they could be involved in future.
It is then hoped to agree and publish the Rough Sleeping Charter, and to form a permanent citywide partnership board to replace the interim steering group. The interim steering group expects this partnership to 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.
The council has agreed to provide £150,000 over the next two years to support the City Conversation. This includes funding the development of the Charter and permanent partnership board.
Oxfordshire Community Foundation will act as convenor for the City Conversation during this process, and Jane Cranston, High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, has agreed to chair the interim steering group.
Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing, said: “The effects of the national homelessness crisis are all too obvious on the streets of Oxford, so I am delighted we are taking the City Conversation forward with some of our key local partners. Together, we will produce proposals for a citywide partnership to tackle rough sleeping and a Rough Sleeping Charter in the early summer.
“We will then ask the wider Oxford community to contribute their ideas and opinions on how we could improve these proposals and how they could be involved in tackling rough sleeping in future. If a Charter and a permanent partnership can be agreed, the real hard work to deliver our vision – that nobody should have to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford – will then begin.
“I’d like to thank the interim steering group for their commitment, and in particular Oxfordshire Community Foundation for convening the group over the coming months. I’d also like to thank Jane Cranston, High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, for agreeing to chair the group during this period.”
Jane Cranston, Chair of the City Conversation interim steering group, said: “For this initiative to succeed it needs to be able to attract interest and support from right across the city. As an independent and non-political person I hope to be able to bring in some new support with innovative ideas to broaden out and build on the good work already being done by many operating in the sector.”
Claire Dowan, Chief Executive of Homeless Oxfordshire, said: “Homeless Oxfordshire is delighted to be supporting the City Conversation and contributing as member of the interim steering group. The issue of rough sleeping is complex and moving people off the streets requires complex support and solutions. A system change needs to happen, and partnerships that recognise this complexity and work creatively to be become part of the solution are more likely to succeed. The City Conversation is a real opportunity and I look forward to seeing how this develops and working collectively to reduce street homelessness.”
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 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, University College, Thames Valley Police and Crisis Skylight.