Source: City of Oxford
Oxford City Council conducts overnight street counts of people sleeping rough in the city under its funding agreement with the government’s Rough Sleeper Initiative.
In July, the council counted and verified 41 people sleeping rough on the night – a 15 percent decrease from the 48 people counted in May. Street counts cannot give a complete picture of everyone experiencing homelessness, but they are useful in measuring trends and the needs of people sleeping rough over time.
The highest proportion of people experiencing homelessness in Oxford are male UK nationals aged between 36 and 49 sleeping in the city centre.
Eleven people (27 percent) were identified as women, compared to the nine women (19 percent) counted in May.
Five people (12 percent) had accommodation in Oxford but chose to sleep out on the night, when in May only one person (two percent) did so.
The proportion of people who had been sleeping rough for less than six months remained static at 56 percent, with 23 people compared to 27 in May. As in May, the outreach team (OxSPOT) had not seen a quarter of the people counted (10 individuals) sleeping rough before.
Eleven people (27 percent) had returned to the streets after being accommodated, a slight increase on the 10 people (21 percent) counted in May.
Fourteen people (34 percent) had been sleeping rough for more than six months, a decrease from 20 people (42 percent) in May.
Services can find it hard to engage with long term rough sleepers and those who return to the streets repeatedly, as many of them have more than one unmet support need. More than half of the people counted in July (22 individuals) had mental health issues. Other identified support needs included physical health, drug and alcohol dependency, difficulty sustaining accommodation and safeguarding concerns.
The number of homeless UK nationals experiencing homelessness fell from 32 (67 percent) in May to 28 (68 percent) in July. The number of EU nationals sleeping rough also fell from five (10 percent) people to two (five percent).
Seventeen people sleeping rough (41 percent) had a local connection to Oxford, a significant increase on the five (10 percent) counted in May. Three people experiencing homelessness (seven percent) had a known local connection elsewhere in Oxfordshire, compared with four (eight percent) in May.
The rise in the number of people sleeping rough since 2010 is driven by overarching national issues like welfare reform, austerity and a lack of secure, genuinely affordable housing.
The council believes that it takes more than a roof to end homelessness and is transforming services to help people off the streets and into sustainable housing more quickly.
In May the council announced £99,000 in new funding for navigators to help long term rough sleepers and those who return to the streets, and £31,300 for floating support to help people sustain new social tenancies as they leave homelessness behind.
“Although we’re doing more than ever before to prevent and reduce homelessness, the number of people sleeping rough is still too high. A quarter of the people we counted in July were new to the streets.
“Homelessness is a national crisis and it needs government action to tackle its root causes – welfare reform, austerity-driven cuts to drug, alcohol and mental health support services and not enough genuinely affordable social housing.
“At the same time, we need the resources to effectively tackle the effects of the crisis. Although we’ve won nearly £2 million in additional government funding in the last year, it’s only temporary and it’s not enough. To beat homelessness, we need the certainty of sufficient funding we don’t have to apply for again every year.
“And it’s not just about providing beds. We need more of the right kind of support – not just to help people arriving on or returning to our streets, but also to ensure they can successfully move on into sustainable housing as quickly as possible. We need real solutions, not sticking plasters.”
Councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for leisure and housing