Rough sleeping hit a record high in England in 2017, and the national homelessness crisis is all too obvious on the streets of Oxford. We take the issue of rough sleeping extremely seriously.
The rise in street homelessness is fuelled by factors including welfare reform, insecure and expensive private renting, and widespread cuts to mental health and social care services due to austerity.
Street homelessness has a significant impact on physical and mental health. The average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is 47 for men and 43 for women. The best way to help rough sleepers is to get them to come inside, where they can engage with services and get the support they need to help them off the streets.
167 beds are already available for Oxford rough sleepers, and we are in the process of adding more beds and improving services for this winter with temporary funding from the Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI).
Homelessness in Oxford takes many forms, from the visible rough sleepers on our streets to the invisible families that have fallen on hard times. People who experience homelessness are often affected by a wide range of issues, including relationship breakup, domestic violence, debt, mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues, and changes to benefits.
Over recent years the Government has cut our £9m annual grant to nothing. Despite this challenging financial situation, we are doing our best to support everyone who is at risk of or becomes homeless.
Over the last two years we have:
- increased our annual grants to Oxford’s homeless charities to £1.8m a year
- committed £1.5m to keep the Simon House hostel open in the face of closure and build a brand new facility for rough sleepers with complex needs in Cowley
- secured £500,000 of government RSI funding to enhance support for rough sleepers during the winter 2018/19 - we are adding an extra 41 beds and improving services with this funding
- secured £790,000 of government Trailblazer funding to help vulnerable single adults under the age of 35, and households at risk of homelessness
- allocated £15m to buy homes for otherwise homeless Oxford families. We have added a further £5m to this fund In the 2018/19 budget
- alongside partners, prevented 1,159 households from becoming homeless in 2017/18