Why are there so many homeless people in Oxford
In 2017 rough sleeping in England hit record levels and the national homelessness crisis is all too evident on the streets of Oxford. Our annual estimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness has been going up for the last five years and in November 2018 stood at 94.
We believe that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford.
Overarching national issues like welfare reform, precarious private renting and austerity-driven cuts to mental health and social care support services drive the shocking rise in street homelessness. In Oxfordshire these cuts include more than £2 million a year in countywide housing support for single people experiencing homelessness.
It is a vicious cycle because it takes more than a roof to end homelessness. Many people experiencing homelessness in Oxford have unmet support needs that include physical and mental health or substance misuse issues. Cuts to support services make it harder for us to engage with people and help them to come inside or prevent them from returning to the streets.
The effects of homelessness
Street homelessness has a significant impact on physical and mental health. The Office for National Statistics reports that the average age of death for a homeless person is 45 for men and 43 for women, compared with 76 and 81 in the general population.
Street homelessness is dangerous, frightening and isolating. Rough sleepers are more likely to be victims of crime and exploitation, and are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence than the general public. A quarter of female rough sleepers have been sexually assaulted while sleeping on the streets.
The high human cost of homelessness puts increased pressure on public services – for example, on mental health and hospital A&E services. Research for Crisis in 2015 revealed the additional cost to public services for a single man sleeping rough for 12 months could reach £20,128.
Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, but we are committed to preventing and reducing all types of homelessness.
Homelessness takes many forms and includes families facing eviction because they can't afford to put food on the table and pay the rent as well as single people sleeping on the streets.
In 2019/20 we're spending £6 million on preventing all types of homelessness and there are more details of what we're doing in these pages. Over the last few years we have:
- increased our annual grants to Oxford’s homeless charities
- opened Matilda House, a new supported accommodation facility for rough sleepers with complex needs
- begun the process of transforming our homelessness services with the help of more than £850,000 in funding from the government's Rapid Rehousing Pathway (RRP) programme
- used RRP, Public Health England and our own funding to begin converting a former jobcentre in Floyds Row into a new engagement and assessment centre and shelter for up to 56 people experiencing homelessness or at risk of sleeping rough
- secured more than £1 million of temporary government Rough Sleeper Initiative funding to provide better suppport and more beds during the winters of 2018/19 and 2019/20
- delivered ground breaking results by intervening to prevent homelessness before people reach crisis point as part of our Oxfordshire Trailblazer project
- allocated £20 million to buy homes for otherwise homeless Oxford families
- prevented homelessness for around 100 families a month.