All of Oxfordshire’s councils have agreed to work towards a housing-led approach to preventing and ending homelessness, following the publication of a crucial feasibility study by Crisis. The study brought in significant contributions from partners in Oxfordshire Homeless Movement, of which OCF is a founding member.
A partnership agreement signed by Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, Cherwell District Council, West Oxfordshire District Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council provides for significantly more focus on preventing people being made homeless, requiring improved system-wide governance of homelessness services across Oxfordshire and service providers working collaboratively to achieve results.
Housing-led means getting people who are homeless into their own homes as quickly as possible and giving them the support they need to make maintaining a tenancy work. It aims to minimise both the time people spend in temporary accommodation and the number of moves they have to make before getting their permanent home. Oxfordshire benefits from a diverse range of homelessness services, and to ensure no one ‘drops off the radar’, as their support moves between agencies, a centrally held ‘By Name’ list will be created. As well as improving continuity, it will reduce the need for people to explain their background multiple times, thereby reducing the impact of trauma and helping each person feel valued as an individual.
The councils’ agreement to the approach accompanies the publication of a feasibility study, commissioned by Crisis and drawing on the expertise of people who have experienced homelessness in Oxfordshire, as well as those working in the local homelessness sector. Oxfordshire Homeless Movement (OHM) made valuable contributions to the study, in particular in co-producing peer research with OHM’s Lived Experience Advisory Forum consisting of 30 interviews with people in Oxford city experiencing homelessness. Factors such as whether people feel listened to, treated with dignity, and whether their needs have been met were deemed crucial to the success of homelessness interventions in future.
The study found that a housing-led approach could deliver a reduction in homelessness in Oxfordshire within a comparable financial footprint to the current system. A housing-led approach has had significant success in reducing homelessness internationally, with Finland in particular leading the way in tackling homelessness. In the UK this is the first time it has been adopted by a county council.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “We are hugely encouraged by the commitment shown across Oxfordshire in preventing and ending homelessness. This is not a quick fix but instead a bold, long-term strategy developed with the help of people in Oxfordshire who have experienced the trauma of homelessness and those who have worked tirelessly to tackle it. We hope the ambition and collaboration between organisations will be recognised beyond Oxfordshire and show that homelessness is not inevitable.”
Paul Leo, Director of Housing for Oxford City Council and Chair of the Oxfordshire Strategic Homelessness Steering Group, said: “We welcome the publication of this study, which will be instrumental in helping us to achieve our ambition of preventing homelessness across Oxfordshire, and I am delighted that all of the Oxfordshire councils have committed to work together to implement its recommendations. Collaboration across the county between councils, homelessness organisations, health and housing providers will be needed to ensure we can make positive long-term change towards a housing-led system that prevents and ends homelessness across Oxfordshire.”
Kate Wareing, Chief Executive of Soha Housing, said: “We all know how important a stable home is. It provides security, and a foundation for rebuilding a contented life. Soha is pleased to see the emphasis in this feasibility study on finding permanent homes as quickly as possible for people who are homeless. Along with other local housing associations we want to provide more long-term homes for anyone who needs one, including those who are homeless. To do this better we need the support of our councils and communities to build affordable new homes, underpinned by practical help to support settling in. We welcome the commitment of all partners to implement the recommendations set out in this report”.