Oxford City Council has opened a new city centre hub to help reduce rough sleeping in Oxford this winter.
The council’s multi-agency service hub for rough sleepers is at New Road Baptist Church. It is now open as a pilot between 10am and 4pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The hub provides a space for the St Mungo’s outreach team (OxSPOT) to assess and engage with rough sleepers. The council is recruiting a specialist housing options officer so that the hub can provide an integrated assessment and housing advice service.
Other commissioned services, including Aspire, Crisis and Turning Point, will also be meeting rough sleepers at the hub.
The hub’s multi-agency approach will allow a more holistic assessment of accommodation and support needs. This will help to get rough sleepers into accommodation more quickly, which should reduce the number of people on the streets this winter.
Initially the hub is operating on an appointment basis only, for people in contact with OxSPOT. Rough sleepers who are not known to OxSPOT will be given information about how to contact the outreach team, and about other services they can access.
To access the hub’s services, agencies in contact with rough sleepers can ask them to speak to their outreach support worker or refer them to OxSPOT. Agencies can make referrals by calling 01865 243229 during office hours or by emailing email@example.com.
Agencies can also refer rough sleepers through the national www.streetlink.org.uk website or by calling StreetLink on 0300 500 0914.
OxSPOT is not an emergency service, but it will follow up all calls and emails as quickly as possible.
Funding for the hub comes from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) under its Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) Grant, which is targeted at councils with high levels of rough sleeping. The council successfully bid for £503,000 in RSI funding for 2018/19, and the MHCLG has provisionally awarded a further £511,000 for 2019/20.
Councillor Linda Smith, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and Board Member for Leisure and Housing, said: “Oxford City Council is committed to working with partners to deliver our vision that nobody should have to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford. St Mungo’s will be working in the hub with our staff and other services to make sure more rough sleepers get the accommodation and support they need to rebuild their lives.
“RSI funding is only temporary, and we need the government to make a commitment to fund desperately-needed services for longer than the next two winters if it is serious about ending homelessness. The RSI grant means we’re spending more than £2 million this year tackling rough sleeping, and it will make a real difference. But this is only a start.”
Sue Jackson, Oxford Outreach Manager at St Mungo's, said: “Rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous and people can end up on the streets for a number of interconnecting reasons. These include problems with physical or mental health, relationship breakdown, loss of a job or a tenancy, and cuts to benefits or support services.
“St Mungo’s works with a wide range of other services in Oxford to help people off the streets and towards a safe place they can call home. This new funding means we’ve been able to recruit extra outreach staff, and we’re looking forward to working with other services in the new hub to help more people to rebuild their lives away from homelessness. Together, we can make a real difference in reducing rough sleeping in Oxford this winter.”
Paul Roberts, Chief Executive Officer at Aspire Oxford, said: “We welcome the opportunity to play our part in a new, multi-agency approach to tackling rough sleeping this winter. The RSI funding will enable Aspire to provide specialist employment support through the new hub and to bring online new accommodation this winter, to help vulnerable people build the skills, confidence and resilience they urgently need to move out of homelessness for good. Our enterprise teams decorated the hub ready for opening, so we've been involved from the outset and are delighted that the doors are now open.
“While this funding is temporary, it offers a valuable opportunity to work in partnership with other agencies across the homeless pathway to continue our vital work finding sustainable, long term solutions to tackling the homeless crisis."
More information about what the council does to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping is at www.oxford.gov.uk/tacklinghomelessness