Oxford City Council is providing funding for 41 extra beds and better services to reduce rough sleeping in Oxford this winter.
The 41 extra beds come on top of the 167 already in place for Oxford rough sleepers this year.
The council commissions St Mungo’s to deliver its street outreach service (OxSPOT), which helped 300 people off Oxford’s streets last year. St Mungo’s has now recruited three extra outreach staff, which will allow it to help more rough sleepers find the accommodation and support they need to rebuild their lives.
Sixteen extra beds are already available for Oxford rough sleepers, with 17 more beds opening next Monday, 15 October. The final eight of the 41 extra beds are due to open in November.
Ten spaces have been added to the Sit Up service at Homeless Oxfordshire’s O’Hanlon House, which provides short term supported housing and emergency accommodation for rough sleepers while their support needs are assessed.
In a partnership between A2Dominion and Aspire Oxford, six beds have opened in a winter shelter in East Oxford. These bed spaces are available for people who do not have a local connection or entitlement to benefits, and who would not normally be able to access temporary accommodation.
Next week, Homeless Oxfordshire is opening 17 new beds in three separate dispersed accommodation projects. Five move on beds will be available for people who are working or moving into work, and these will be let at local housing allowance rents. Five beds will open in a women-only project, and seven pre-recovery beds will open in a partnership project with Turning Point.
A second winter shelter with eight beds is also due to open in November. These bed spaces will also be open to people without a local connection or entitlement to benefits.
The new beds do not include the Oxford Winter Night Shelter, which aims to open 20 beds in Oxford churches from 1 January until the end of March. They also do not include winter shelters in the other Oxfordshire districts that the council is aiming to develop, and which should also open in January.
Last month, the council opened a multi-agency rough sleeping hub at New Road Baptist Church in Bonn Square.
The hub provides a space for OxSPOT to assess and engage with rough sleepers. The council has recruited a specialist housing options officer so that the hub can provide an integrated assessment and housing advice service. Other services, including Aspire, Crisis and Turning Point, are also meeting rough sleepers at the hub.
The new services follow the council’s successful bids to the government’s temporary Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI), which is targeted at areas with high levels of rough sleeping.
RSI funding for new services comes from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). 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 providing the support that rough sleepers need to help get them off the streets. St Mungo’s has recruited extra staff for our outreach team and we’re providing more than 30 extra beds now, with more to come. But reducing rough sleeping is not just about providing beds – we’re making sure that rough sleepers can get the other support they need to rebuild their lives through our multi-agency hub and more joined up services generally.
“RSI funding will make a real difference in reducing rough sleeping in Oxford over the next 18 months, but it is only temporary and it is not enough. The government needs to make a sustained commitment to funding the services that are desperately needed if it expects the council and our partners to end homelessness in Oxford.”
Claire Dowan, Chief Executive Officer of Homeless Oxfordshire, said: “Homeless Oxfordshire is delighted to be able to provide additional services and be part of the Rough Sleeper Initiative with Oxford City Council. We hope this will lead to longer term recognition of the value of supporting local authorities to meet local needs and ongoing financial support from central government. Without longer term investment we continue to put a "sticking plaster" on the issue, this funding is a step in the right direction and will help get more people off the streets this winter.”
More information about what the council does to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping is at www.oxford.gov.uk/tacklinghomelessness