Today, on World Homeless Day, the City Conversation partnership has set out collaborative actions to address rough sleeping in Oxford.
The City Conversation on Rough Sleeping is a budding partnership between local government, Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF) and the wider charitable and community sector, the police, universities, and businesses, with the vision “to ensure that nobody has to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford”. OCF joined the partnership in May and has been facilitating an approach centred on specific working groups made up of people from across the public, private and community sectors.
Now the partnership’s priorities are starting to take shape. We have agreed four distinct work streams, and gained agreement from a wide range of public and third sector organisations to actively collaborate on them. These are: to address the issue of why some people can’t or won’t engage with services that could help them; to provide better information about what services are already available and what people can do to help; to bring more funding into Oxford for services to address this issue; and to build the partnership, around a strong city charter on rough sleeping.
The partnership is working in the context of the existing provision for homeless people in Oxford – a city that is already doing more than many other places to tackle rough sleeping. There will be more than 200 beds available this winter, and day services which include free meals. The City Council-funded Pathway programme, delivered by St Mungo’s, Homeless Oxfordshire, Aspire and others, helps move many people on into more permanent accommodation. The City Council has secured an additional £1 million for winter provision over the next two years – although this is time-limited and by itself cannot fix the underlying problems causing homelessness.
One of the first tasks of the working group dealing with providing better information is to create a website that will be a one-stop-shop for the public and homeless people themselves to find out where to get help, such as which day and overnight services are open when and for who. Over time the partnership will share best practice for the public about how best to assist rough sleepers, financially and otherwise.
Speaking in the Oxford Mail today, the City Conversation’s independent Chair Jane Cranston DL says: “I see this effort as a way of building genuine momentum, with a DEC-style emergency response that can also initiate more effective giving by the public, businesses and grant-makers – as we move to longer-term, sustainable solutions to the problem. On World Homeless Day, I hope that this provides real hope that together, we can move beyond a conversation and turn the ample goodwill from all sectors into effective, lasting action.”
Councillor Linda Smith, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and Board Member for Leisure and Housing, says: “Oxford City Council has won more than £1m in extra government funding to tackle rough sleeping over the next eighteen months, but this is only temporary and is not enough to end rough sleeping in Oxford. The national rough sleeping crisis is all too evident on our streets, and it will take a city - not just a city council - to make a lasting difference.
“We’ve been working with OCF and local homelessness services to develop a citywide partnership that will deliver our vision that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford. We believe that everybody can do something to help end rough sleeping, and we need concerned individuals, organisations and businesses to work with us to achieve this.”