OCF’s volunteer trustees held their Board meeting at Oxford Homeless Pathways last night, allowing them to see and hear more about why so many people locally become homeless, and what can be done to help them.
Following the publication of its research report Oxfordshire Uncovered last year, OCF’s Board of Trustees is keen to understand more about the issues raised, and reflect on how the community foundation should channel effort and money into alleviating them. Held at O’Hanlon House in Oxford city centre, 22nd March 2017 was the first of a series of roving OCF Board meetings hosted by leading organisations at the forefront of charitable provision in Oxfordshire.
As identified in the Uncovered report, homelessness is one of the most severe, visible and distressing social problems particularly affecting Oxfordshire and the city of Oxford – and an issue that several of OCF’s key donors and partners are interested in addressing. It is estimated that there are around 500 homeless households (including children) in the county, and around 90 rough sleepers – although these numbers are considered to be flawed underestimations by most of the homelessness charities, because individuals or families have to meet very precise criteria in order to be included in the count. Oxford Homeless Pathways (OxHoP) emphasises that there is no single reason for people becoming homeless – but rather a complex set of circumstances, such as bereavement, abuse, divorce, poverty and addiction, that can result in someone ending up on the street or in temporary accommodation.
As well as discussing foundation business at their Board meeting, OCF’s trustees took the chance to better understand the homeless provision provided by OxHoP and others. OxHoP works in a hands-on and strategic way with almost every other homelessness support service in the local area – including other local and national charities, religious communities, educational institutions and public sector bodies such as the local councils and police force. The whole network of homeless provision at OxHoP and beyond is supported by an impressive number of individual volunteers.
OxHoP staff member Jo Faulkner Harvey explained to the trustees that local services are arranged around a ‘pathway’ out of homelessness, with three types of accommodation provided:
- Acute emergency accommodation
O’Hanlon House, which is run by OxHoP, and previously in Lucy Faithfull House, which was run by the County Council but decommissioned in 2016, offer acute accommodation for people sleeping rough, many of whom have mental health or substance abuse problems.
- Progressive support accommodation
OxHoP’s Julian Housing and A2 Dominion’s Simon House (due to close next year due to County Council funding cuts) are longer-term, progressive solutions, helping people improve their health and gain work experience before moving on.
- Independent accommodation
OxHoP’s Edith Kempson House in Littlemore helps those who have found a job and accessed benefits but are not quite yet able to afford housing.
OCF’s trustees were interested to see where the areas of greatest need are, and would like to build their knowledge in other areas – particularly in relation to children and families, and loneliness and isolation. If any other Oxfordshire charity would be willing to host OCF’s future Board meetings, we would be interested to hear from you – please do get in touch.