GroupsNewsYvonne Pinner accepts a High Sheriff's Award from Amanda Ponsonby in March 2021

As temporary accommodation at Canterbury House had to be handed back, five people with no recourse to public funds were at risk of returning to rough sleeping. Thanks to a rapid response from University College and other partners in Oxfordshire Homeless Movement, these people are now safely housed.

During the first lockdown, people experiencing homelessness were brought in from the streets as part of the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ initiative. In Oxford, people were housed in hotels and youth hostels around the city until the City Council reached an agreement with Oxford Brookes University to lease Canterbury House until July 2021. As this lease came to end last week, five residents had still not found the necessary move-on accommodation. All were ineligible for statutory support or funding due to their countries of origin, and were at serious risk of returning to the streets.

Having tried to secure accommodation in the weeks prior to closure to no avail, on the day the lease on Canterbury House ended Oxfordshire Homeless Movement (OHM) Project Manager Yvonne Pinner made an urgent phone call to Angela Unsworth, Domestic Bursar at University College. Angela sits on OHM’s steering group representing Oxford University.

Angela came back extraordinarily quickly with a house and authority to use it until September, which gives the Movement valuable time to find a more permanent solution. OHM immediately mobilised its partners to move the five guests in:

  • University College has given over a house free of charge, with ensuite facilities for each room, and is also paying for all utilities and providing key items such as white goods. They arranged for the property to be cleaned, and alongside housing workers from Connection Support welcomed all the guests on the day they arrived.
  • Connection Support is providing 121 assistance needed for guests while staying in Univ’s property.
  • Aspire quickly arranged the necessary licence agreements with University College and the guests.
  • The Gatehouse provided a large starter food pack and other necessities, and will be delivering weekly food parcels for each guest during their stay.
  • St Mungo’s provided advice and arranged for the five guests to be transported from Canterbury House to their new residence.
  • Asylum Welcome gave crucial background information on the five guests to ensure their specific support needs could be met.

A project to secure long-term accommodation for people with no recourse to public funds is also underway, which will also provide tailored support for each person, to the point where they become self-sufficient and contribute positively to the Oxfordshire community.

Jane Cranston, OHM Chair, comments: “This is a truly fabulous example of what working together can do – and so quickly! It shows that people and organisations everywhere are motivated by their common humanity – but also that drive, trust and collaboration really do make good things happen. I have to give a particular thank you to Yvonne, who had a sleepless night wondering what she could do to stop these five people ending up on the streets. The next step is long-term accommodation – but this provides a valuable breathing space.”

Find out more about Oxfordshire Homeless Movement