Thanks to the generosity of the community, Oxfordshire Homeless Movement (OHM) was able to raise funds that will now be used to help those at the sharp end of homelessness. OCF hosts OHM’s project management and fundraising.

OHM’s Christmas campaign appealed to local residents, visitors and workers to help ensure no-one has to sleep rough in our county in 2021 and beyond. It urged people to give what they could to ensure that former rough sleepers would not have to return to the streets once the Government’s directive to bring everyone inside comes to an end.

Donations from individuals and local businesses brought in over £40,000 for OHM, which was topped up by a match fund from OCF of £20,000. Companies like local web design agency Versantus donated money they would usually spend on Christmas festivities, and local residents gave at community celebrations such as a Christmas lights event in Besselsleigh. The funds will be used to kick off a new project that finds housing and support for people most at risk because they are not eligible for public funding.

Most of the 300 people brought inside during COVID-19 will be able to benefit from local Government support, with the help of local charities. For example, Oxford City Council and Aspire were last year awarded nearly £1 million from central Government to provide move-on housing for people experiencing homelessness after their temporary accommodation in hostels and university halls of residence expires.

However, around 10% of this homeless population will be ineligible for help, most often because they have a pending or unresolved asylum claim, and are not allowed to work or claim benefits. This status is referred to as having “No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF). In many cases it effectively leaves people destitute; but for them, living in hardship in Oxfordshire is preferable to a return to their own countries, where they may face danger or even worse conditions.

The project aims to find sustainable housing for up to 30 people, and to provide support services that will enable them to become self-sufficient, contributing positively to the community in Oxfordshire. The project will bring in expertise from charity partners Connection Support, Aspire and Asylum Welcome.

Funds from the Christmas appeal will also be used to help ensure that the voices of those with real-world experience of homelessness are heard in local decision-making, and at the heart of OHM’s work.

OHM Vice-Chair Neil Preddy says: “We are delighted that the generosity of the local community is enabling us to begin this crucial project, which if successful could help bring about an end to rough sleeping in Oxfordshire altogether. It is an example of OHM’s work filling the gaps that others can’t, thanks to a partnership approach where we work together to understand the needs and create a viable solution.”

Paul Birtles, whose Covered Market business the Garden of Oxford raised money for the appeal, said: “We were happy to be able to do our bit again this year and support Oxfordshire Homeless Movement. It’s upsetting at the best of times to see people sleeping rough in the city centre, and I can’t imagine what lies in store for people as the fallout of the pandemic becomes more apparent. We’re grateful for the work that OHM is doing and are proud to support them.”

Another donor on OHM’s fundraising site said: “I am pleased there is a coordinated effort in Oxfordshire between various agencies and concerns to tackle the problem of homelessness in this city – a wealthy city compared to some, so it’s shameful there is a problem.”

Although OHM’s Christmas appeal has ended, it is still possible to donate to support their work by visiting, or sending a cheque payable to OHM’s host organisation “Oxfordshire Community Foundation” to PO Box 941, Oxford, OX1 9TQ.