Oxford City Council has been awarded £503,000 from a new government fund to help councils prevent and reduce rough sleeping this winter.
The council intends to use the Rough Sleeping Initiative Grant funding to support 64 new bed spaces for rough sleepers – including some beds for people who are not currently eligible for the homeless pathway. The new provision will ideally include up to 20 beds in winter shelters in Abingdon and Banbury.
The extra funding will allow the council to develop a multi-agency service hub in the city centre. This will provide an integrated assessment and housing advice service, and appointments with other agencies providing support – such as mental health or substance misuse services. The hub could hopefully host additional welfare services, such as hairdressing, chiropody, art and cookery classes.
The council will also use the funding to reorganise and strengthen frontline services. These improvements will include three extra staff for the Street Population Outreach Team (OxSPOT), which is funded by the council and run by St Mungo’s. OxSPOT verifies rough sleepers and helps them to access emergency accommodation and support services – in 2017/18, it helped more than 300 rough sleepers off Oxford’s streets.
The £30 million Rough Sleeping Initiative Grant, which is targeted at councils with high levels of rough sleeping, is administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Councillor Linda Smith, Deputy Leader and Board Member for Leisure and Housing, said: “We take rough sleeping very seriously, so we are very pleased to have been awarded this new funding by MHCLG. The extra accommodation and support we can now provide will make a real difference in tackling rough sleeping in Oxford this winter.
“We have already planned 167 beds for Oxford rough sleepers this winter, and our successful bid will give us extra capacity to help people who aren’t currently eligible for the homeless pathway. It will also allow us to provide better, more joined-up services and to meet rough sleepers’ support and welfare needs more holistically.”
More information about what the council does to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping is at www.oxford.gov.uk/tacklinghomelessness.