Following the growing homelessness crisis in Oxford, the City Council have announced their intentions to increase its spending on rough sleepers to more than £2 million in the coming year.
Persistently high numbers of people sleeping rough, changes to funding for housing support services in Oxfordshire and plans to expand winter emergency accommodation mean that the council says it needs £2,081,197 for the year ahead.
Councillor Linda Smith, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and Board Member for Leisure and Housing, said: “We take rough sleeping very seriously, and our budget proposals demonstrate our ambition that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford – even as we continue to face a national homelessness crisis caused by austerity, welfare reform and not enough secure, affordable housing.”
The council intends to spend £1.75 million on preventing street homelessness in 2019/20. This proposal comes after estimates that the number of people sleeping rough in Oxford has risen from 89 to 94 in the last year. This money is thought to enable the council to increase the number of beds being provided for rough sleepers to an estimated 219.
As well as this increase, Oxford City Council is also proposing to spend nearly £340,000 on the former job centre in Floyds Row, to turn it into a wintering emergency shelter that could provide for up to 60 people experiencing homelessness
The funding will go to Oxford Street Population Outreach (OxSPOT) who assess rough sleepers’ needs and help them access emergency accommodation and support services. OxSPOT is expecting to help around 425 people off the streets in 2018/19.
Co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club, Grace Davis told The Oxford Student “We’re really pleased to see extra funding from Oxford City Council to reduce rough sleeping in Oxford”
She adds that the OULC “maintain the position, however, that Oxford City Council should expand the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol to every freezing night, and will continue to hold this position as a club”. However, the council have announced their expectation that “the development of Floyds Row as a winterlong shelter available to all should largely remove the need for SWEP provision”
Nevertheless, the City Council’s initiative is a step in the right direction for a major issue which they say “wasn’t born in Oxford, but with the help of government and our partners we can make sure […] ends here.”
Image credit: Matthew Woitunski