In November, Oxfordshire’s five district councils undertook the annual estimate of rough sleepers that forms the basis of government statistics on English rough sleeping.
Employing national guidance developed by Homeless Link, the councils estimate that 119 people were sleeping rough in Oxfordshire last month. In 2017, the five councils estimated that there were 117 rough sleepers across the county.
Nearly four fifths (79 percent) of rough sleepers are in Oxford itself, where Oxford City Council estimated that the number of people sleeping rough had risen from 89 to 94.
Cherwell District Council estimated that the number of people sleeping rough in its area had risen from nine to 11, with South Oxfordshire District Council estimated to have three rough sleepers compared to two last year.
Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council both estimated that rough sleeping in their areas had fallen. The Vale of White Horse District Council estimated a decrease from ten to nine rough sleepers. In West Oxfordshire the council estimated that the number of rough sleepers had fallen from seven to two people.
Estimates are intelligence-led snapshots based on data from councils, outreach teams, other service providers and local partners about the number of people sleeping rough on a particular night. Estimates provide a relatively accurate picture of everyone sleeping rough in an area, and they can be effective in measuring trends in rough sleeper numbers and in monitoring progress over time.
Councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader of Oxford City Council and board member for Leisure and Housing, said: “In common with our neighbouring districts, we take rough sleeping very seriously and we’re doing more than ever before to prevent and reduce rough sleeping. We work together to commission services and our joint Oxfordshire Trailblazer project is delivering life changing results in preventing homelessness as early as possible.
“In Oxford, we’re providing up to 215 beds for rough sleepers this winter, which include 41 new beds funded by the temporary Rough Sleeper Initiative. The impact of high and insecure private rents, austerity and welfare reform – particularly the rollout of Universal Credit in Oxfordshire last year – means that, despite our efforts, the estimated number of rough sleepers across the county remains unchanged. We will continue to work with our neighbours to tackle homelessness because we believe that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxfordshire.”
Councillor John Donaldson, lead member for Housing at Cherwell District Council, said: “It is vital to us that all Oxfordshire authorities work together to support rough sleepers and we are fully committed to initiatives such as the Trailblazer project to deliver positive outcomes.”
“We continue to work in partnership with our colleagues in the other districts and county to jointly fund the Adult Homeless Pathway with 11 complex needs placements and 13 beds provided locally for those with lower support needs. Over and above the jointly funded pathway we also have 10 additional bed spaces for single people rough sleeping or at risk of homelessness from Cherwell and we intend to extend these numbers over the winter period.”
Councillor Elaine Ware, cabinet member for Housing for Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “We have increased our support and accommodation to continue to minimise the numbers of rough sleepers across the Vale and South Oxfordshire.”
“We are also working with the other authorities in Oxfordshire with a joint funding programme to help people who find themselves living on the streets.”
Councillor Caroline Newton, cabinet member for Housing for South Oxfordshire District Council, added: “We are working in partnership with all district councils, the city, the County Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group to come up with a collective response to help people who find themselves homeless in our area.
“We have increased spending on accommodation and outreach teams in both South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse to help people get off the streets and on with their lives.”
Councillor Steve Good, cabinet member for Environment and Housing Management for West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We are delighted to have reduced the homeless figure in West Oxfordshire so significantly which is in no small part down to new and existing initiatives which continue to address the problem.
“We have also just acquired a property in Chipping Norton which will be used to provide six units of emergency accommodation for use by those facing homelessness in the district and other areas of Oxfordshire as necessary.”
Joint press release by Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council