Oxford City Council has secured 124 rooms of interim housing for the next year for the community’s rough sleepers.
In 2017 rough sleeping in England hit record levels and as at November 2019, 43 people were rough sleeping in Oxfordshire but as many organisations explain, the actual figure of rough sleepers is much, much higher.
On 26 March, the Government issued an ‘everyone in’ direction for English councils to provide emergency housing for rough sleepers and vulnerable homeless people to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In Oxford, this included people sleeping on the streets and those in Floyds Row and the sit up (assessment) service at O’Hanlon House.
Now, as lockdown lifts, concern had been raised over the fate of Oxford’s rough sleepers, and if they would have to return to their prior situations.
Today, Oxford City Council has confirmed that they have reached an agreement with A2Dominion to lease Canterbury House until July 2021 and secured 124 rooms of interim housing for the next year. This means that there will need be no return to the streets for those currently housed in hotels and student blocks. It has also extended its current lease on the YHA until the end of March.
Luke Hall MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, said:
“Thanks to the combined local efforts of partners and decisive government action we have helped to protect the most vulnerable in Oxford, getting people off the street and into safe interim accommodation. We now have a real opportunity to ensure that as many people as possible do not return to a life on the streets. Nationally, we are delivering 6,000 longer-term, safe homes for former rough sleepers. Together with our Rough Sleeping Initiative this amounts to over £500m funding to help break the cycle of homelessness and end rough sleeping for good.”
Whilst it is not a final solution, interim housing can be viewed as a bridge between emergency lockdown arrangements and more sustainable housing.
The acquisition of Canterbury House and extension of the YHA lease mean the Council will be able to maintain accommodation for people housed during lockdown as existing agreements with hotels and colleges come to an end this month.
It will also allow the Council to provide accommodation and support for people who become homeless over the coming months. This will include winter beds that were provided in shared spaces before the pandemic.
The City’s Outreach Team, also run by St Mungo’s, will continue to support and work with people who have continued to sleep rough during the pandemic with ongoing offers of accommodation and help.