The project will help people experiencing homelessness who are not eligible for any public funds due to their immigration status – which effectively leaves them destitute. Oxfordshire Homeless Movement is raising funds to support these people to lead productive lives in Oxfordshire.
200 people who were sleeping rough in Oxfordshire have been housed in temporary accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been a significant achievement, and its success proves that homelessness can be ended if given priority and adequate resources. However, these arrangements end from 31st March 2021. After that, local councils are not permitted to use their resources to house people with a status referred to as “NRPF” (No Recourse to Public Funds). The majority are from outside the EEA and have a pending or unresolved asylum claim. They are not allowed to work; neither are they eligible for benefits, nor allowed to use public services except for basic health care.
In many cases this policy effectively leaves people destitute. However, 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. This often makes them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and a return to the streets also places them at risk of deportation to a place where they may not be safe.
Oxfordshire Homeless Movement (OHM), a partnership of which OCF is a founding member, has designed an NRPF project to provide tailored support for each person, to the point where they become self-sufficient and contribute positively to the Oxfordshire community. The approach is centred on ‘Housing First’ principles, which specify that without stable accommodation and support fitted to their needs, no person is likely to remain safe, mentally well and able to start looking after themselves. It will also include a very tailored assessment of needs which recognises that each participant has their own personal strengths, weaknesses and aspirations, and creates a support and development programme suited to the individual. The project will implement lessons and recommendations from the recently published Housing-Led Feasibility Study for Oxfordshire.
The programme was initiated by OHM and designed by a coalition of leading local organisations covering the specialist areas needed. OHM’s Steering Group will oversee the project, supported by charitable funding from OCF. Delivery will be managed by three well respected organisations in this field:
- Aspire will be responsible for property management and maintenance services
- Asylum Welcome will provide professional advice to support asylum claims for those from outside the EEA, and applications for settled status for those from within the EEA
- Connection Support will create individual plans to help clients move forward – including providing support related to any trauma clients may have experienced.
The first group of six clients can now be housed and supported thanks to accommodation provided by Soha Housing and funding raised by OHM, including part of its 2020 Christmas campaign and contributions from generous private donors. It is hoped that a further six clients will also be offered accommodation by Soha and once this is confirmed, and further funds are raised, this next group will be added. This ambitious project is designed to support all those with NRPF currently in interim accommodation; however, it is also planned to run for a further five years, so that people needing help in future can also be supported. Fundraising for the future of the project is therefore ongoing.