Prevention is always better than cure

Partners in Oxford Homeless Movement are continuing ground breaking work to prevent people from becoming homeless by helping them before they reach crisis point.

Aspire: Aspire’s new homelessness prevention team is continuing the work of the community navigator service that was set up as part of the Oxfordshire Trailblazer project.

Oxfordshire Trailblazer was a two year pilot project funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) to test new ways of preventing homelessness. A partnership between the county’s five city and district councils, the project worked with health, criminal justice, social care and other services to prevent homelessness.

Homeless and vulnerably housed people often lack the self-esteem or confidence to access services that could help prevent or end their homelessness. Aspire’s community navigators provide support, advice and mentoring for their clients to work with services that can help prevent homelessness and sustain tenancies.

Community navigators also support people with other issues like benefits, debt, social isolation and finding work.

During the Oxfordshire Trailblazer project, Aspire’s community navigators worked with more than 400 people across the county. While there were a number of cases where the final outcome was not known, in 240 of these (55 percent) community navigators successfully helped prevent people from being evicted or becoming homeless.

Thanks to support from a range of funders – including local and national trusts, Oxfordshire Community Foundation and Oxfordshire based housing associations – Aspire is continuing to offer community navigator support to help people who are vulnerable to homelessness.

Community navigator case study

S is a single mother living in social housing with her young daughter who attends preschool. Following a period of mental ill health she got behind on paying her rent. S was issued with a section 21 possession order that made her depression and anxiety much worse. She was put in touch with Aspire’s Trailblazer team, who liaised with the housing association to set up a payment plan, arranged court representation and connected S to a range of services to help her manage debt.

Thanks to this support, S was able to stay in her home. She has found a new job and is now much more confident in managing her housing situation for the future.

“My name is Sam, I am 30 years old and have always been a fiercely independent and proud individual. Having been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 11, removal of my large bowel and stoma formation at 16 I’d say I was a resilient type of person. April 13th 2018, life changed immeasurably. I was diagnosed out of the blue with a severe lung disease which has so far been untreatable. The fallout from all this has cost me my job, my social life, pride and confidence.

“That is when I first met Barry (Aspire community navigator). After months of incredibly unhelpful and degrading appointments, Barry was like a beacon. He gave me hope and he listened. We arranged to meet at my house soon after our initial conversation and for the first time I felt like things were going in a positive direction. He also loved my cats which is an immediate win! Barry fought my corner with a rather messy council and housing situation, one that I couldn’t understand nor had the energy to fight. If it wasn’t for him, none of this would be possible.

“Jessica was the next kind soul who came into my life at the perfect time, She helped manage an extremely uncomfortable situation engaging with some very unreasonable bailiffs which had brought me to shaking tears more than once. She got me out of the house, took me for tea and cake and listened or spoke at the right time.

“That’s why all of these truly special people deserve the chance to help more people like me as I am one of many that don’t have a voice or anyone to turn to. I fell on hard times through no fault of my own, my story isn’t unique but it’s outcome would have looked very different if it wasn’t for this group of incredible human beings.

“Aspire’s community navigators change lives. Not only for the immediate effects of homelessness and housing crisis’ but holistically, ensuring its service users are cared for in all manner of ways. Barry and Jessica have not only been a lifeline, but my friends, my support and have given invaluable guidance through the worst year of my life. They have gone above and beyond for myself and so many others.”
Sam, Trailblazer beneficiary

“We know that the preventative approach to homelessness is absolutely vital in tackling Oxfordshire’s growing homelessness crisis. By engaging with people at the earliest possible stage, we can not only help protect people from homelessness but crucially give them the skills and resilience they need to manage their housing situations in the future. We’re extremely grateful to the multiple funders and partners who have come together to enable this vital work to continue.”
Paul Reid, head of homelessness programmes – Aspire

Other services

The community navigator model is being used to help long term rough sleepers and people who have returned to the streets in Oxford. Earlier this year Oxford City Council won more than £850,000 from the MHCLG’s Rapid Rehousing Pathway programme to help transform homelessness services – including £99,000 for community navigators. St Mungo’s is providing this service for the council through its outreach and assessment team, OxSPOT.

Oxfordshire’s five city and district councils have also been awarded funding from the MHCLG’s Cold Weather Fund, with £18,750 of this for the employment of a hospital-based embedded housing worker with a countywide remit. The embedded housing worker will advise NHS staff on housing and homelessness prevention options, helping them provide better support to their own patients. An example of this would be preventing delayed transfer of care (“bed blocking”) by helping someone find or return to accommodation.

Embedded housing workers in hospitals helped end or prevent homelessness for half (49 percent) of completed cases during the pilot Oxfordshire Trailblazer project.

How you can help with Oxford Homeless Movement

Oxford Homeless Movement is a partnership of the many organisations working to ensure that nobody has to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford. It is hoping to raise £150,000 for charities helping people rough sleeping and to deliver new services reducing homelessness.

Between Sunday 1 December and Monday 6 January, Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF) is pledging to match any donation to Oxford Homeless Movement through a Christmas Match Fund.

OCF’s pledge to double the difference will apply to both one-off and repeat donations made during the Christmas period. When eligible for Gift Aid, a typical £30 donation will be worth £67.50 to beneficiaries of the Christmas Match Fund.

You can donate online at
or by sending a cheque to
Oxford Homeless Movement
PO Box 941
OX1 9TQ.

B4 is supported by