Oxford City Council has secured 124 rooms of interim housing for the next year, meaning that there need be no return to the streets for former rough sleepers currently housed in hotels and student blocks.
The council has reached an agreement with A2Dominion to lease Canterbury House, previously part of Oxford Brookes’ student accommodation, until July 2021. It has also extended its current lease on the YHA until the end of March. Partners from Oxford Homeless Movement are working to support residents with practical equipment, as well as advice and counselling to help them make the most of the opportunity this presents to end their homelessness for good.
On 26 March, the government issued an ‘everyone in’ direction for English councils to provide emergency housing for rough sleepers and vulnerable homeless people to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. In Oxford, this included people sleeping on the streets and those in Floyds Row and the sit up (assessment) service at O’Hanlon House. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of the virus among those guests that have been temporarily accommodated in Oxford.
Interim housing is a bridge between emergency lockdown arrangements and more sustainable housing. The acquisition of Canterbury House and extension of the YHA lease mean the council will be able to maintain accommodation for people housed during lockdown as existing agreements with hotels and colleges come to an end this month. Oxford Homeless Movement partner St Mungo’s will continue to manage this interim housing from these two locations in addition to the outreach, assessment and support services it currently provides.
Canterbury House and the YHA provide 76 and 42 rooms of self-contained accommodation respectively. A further six rooms are available in a block already leased from University College for people displaying symptoms of coronavirus – so far, this has not been needed.
OCF’s Project Manager for Oxford Homeless Movement Yvonne Pinner has been supporting partnership working throughout this process. With the help of a wonderful band of volunteers, she is currently coordinating practical support for the new Canterbury House residents, by collecting together 76 kitchen packs and promoting an Amazon wish list from which supporters can buy equipment. You can find the list here.
A total of 203 people have been housed in hotel and student rooms in Oxford over the past four months. Of these, 76 have been supported into more permanent housing, and this includes a number of people who had been sleeping rough on a long-term basis. Consolidating the current patchwork of hotel and student rooms into two main locations will make it easier to provide intensive personal support that helps more people off the streets for good.
Jane Cranston, Chair of Oxford Homeless Movement, said “OHM is all about partnership, and we’re absolutely delighted that Oxford Brookes University and University College, Oxford have been able to step up and support Oxford City Council and A2 Dominion at this crucial time. Their commitment gives the Council and all the local supporting agencies a much-needed extension in time to work towards finding long-term, sustainable solutions for those who had previously been sleeping rough on the streets of Oxfordshire.”