A new city-wide partnership has been launched in bids to reduce the number of rough sleepers in Oxford.
The Movement, which includes local homeless charities, housing providers, Oxford City council, health providers, funding bodies, community-based organisations, and businesses will be officially celebrated on World Homeless Day (10th October).
According to reports, street homelessness has been on the increase since the turn of the decade, and hit record levels in England in 2017, including in Oxford.
In 2017, Oxford’s annual street count found 61 people experiencing homelessness in the city.
Despite increasing its budget for tackling rough sleeping and winning additional government funding, on the night of the November 2018 street count, the council estimated that the number experiencing homelessness on Oxford’s streets had increased to 94 people.
On the announced partnership, Cllr Linda Smith, deputy leader of Oxford City council and cabinet member for leisure and housing, said: “We’re doing more than ever before to prevent and reduce rough sleeping, including more beds and better assessment services to help people off the streets as quickly as possible.
“But the number of people experiencing homelessness is still too high. We have to undertake street counts every two months and what we’re finding is that a quarter of people are new to the streets.
“We can’t end homelessness on our own. We need Oxford to join us in the Movement and help beat homelessness together.”
Some of the measures delivered under the Movement so far include:
- A website (www.oxfordhomelessmovement.org.uk) to link those who want to offer their support with the organisations or individuals that are providing support to people experiencing rough sleeping
- A city-wide charter to ensure nobody should have to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford, co-created by Oxford’s homelessness agencies, charities, voluntary organisations, and the city council, which anyone can sign up to on the website
- The launch of the Oxford Homeless Movement advisory group, made up of people who have experienced rough sleeping and who are either now working for or supported by local agencies, to take a leadership role in Oxford Homeless Movement
- The launch of a collective fundraising effort under the Oxford Homeless Movement banner, which will include a new Impact Fund designed to close the critical gaps in Oxford’s response to reduce rough sleeping
Building on the efforts of the Movement, many local organisations and individuals are also making efforts to lend their support to preventing rough sleeping in Oxford – including further development of the Housing First model in the area.
Jane Cranston, chair of Oxford Homeless Movement, said: “It’s time we all said, ‘Enough is enough’.
“It will take a whole city effort if we are to have a serious go at preventing anybody from having to sleep rough on our streets.
“Oxford Homeless Movement is an exciting step in the right direction. Getting this far has required huge progress in co-operation and trust and to truly launch the Movement we need you – individuals and Oxford based businesses and organisations – to come on board and get involved.
“Join the Movement today by signing the charter, raising your awareness and understanding of homelessness and commit to volunteering or to making a donation.
“We all have a role to play.”
Nikki Aitchison, programme manager at Aspire Oxford, added: “We’re doing this properly, tackling the most difficult questions and trialling new approaches, led by people who have experienced this themselves.”