Oxford Homeless Movement is a partnership of the many organisations working to ensure that nobody has to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford. Matched by funds from OCF, it raised over £150,000 at the start of 2020, which is now being spent to support homeless people who have been housed during the Covid-19 pandemic improve their lives in the long term.
OCF, a founding partner in Oxford Homeless Movement, matched every £1 raised, and has already distributed over a third of the funds between 10 homelessness charities in Oxford. A similar share of the fund has been set aside to develop the gardens in Floyds Row assessment centre and shelter.
The rest of the money was used to set up a new impact fund, which proactively identifies projects that increase ‘move-on’ housing and prevent homelessness. Applications for the fund closed in March and the panel met virtually in April to agree how to award the funds. Despite the changes brought about by the pandemic during this time, two applications stood out as being immediately transferable to the current environment: local charities Aspire and ACT have now been awarded grants totalling over £54,000.
Both projects will build on the fact that during Covid-19, it was necessary to bring all rough sleepers inside to keep them safe, and to close some of the communal sleeping areas in the city’s homeless shelters. As a result, Oxford’s rough sleepers were housed in hotels and student accommodation in the city, most of which is secured until the end of June. These two projects address what happens next: they will use a housing-led approach, where access to stable accommodation is not dependent on overcoming the problems that led a person to be homeless, but rather they are supported to address their problems knowing they are safe and warm first.
Both charities work will with landlords in the city to provide affordable rentals to homeless people. Once housed, beneficiaries will be given the support they need to tackle addictions and mental health issues, improve their physical wellbeing, manage their finances and gain work experience. Beneficiaries will be assisted in practical concerns such as drawing down housing benefit and accessing ID.
ACT Chair Chris Gillies comments: “Each individual presenting to us has a unique story with a variety of often complex needs. Very occasionally individuals are supported towards independence within a year, but more often than not they require several years of support. We build strong, supportive relationships with each tenant, liaising carefully with our teams and partners to evaluate each person’s progress towards independence and readiness to move on.”
Aspire CEO Paul Roberts comments: “Our experience in supporting highly vulnerable people has shown us that a person-centred and intense approach is crucial to help each person live independently. Once they move on, we stay in touch. They are encouraged to access Aspire’s wider support to build their skills, confidence, self-esteem and employability.”
Oxford Homeless Movement continues to meet virtually to agree a way forward and build on the partnerships that are being cemented at this crucial time, as the number of people temporarily housed and rough sleeping is expected to increase with the subsequent economic and well-being impact of the continued pandemic. In particular, they are planning fit-for-purpose accommodation, and considering needs, sources and costs once the emergency support ends. The movement’s advisory panel of people with lived experience of homelessness will continue to be involved in all of its decision-making.
Join OCF’s next zoom webinar on 27th May to hear Aspire and other support organisations in conversation with Amanda Ponsonby, the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire about their response to Covid-19 and beyond. Go to oxfordshire.org for details on how to attend.