The recent tragic deaths in Oxford have saddened everyone involved in the homeless sector and beyond. They come as the City Conversation partnership on rough sleeping becomes Oxford Homeless Movement, with a vision to ensure that nobody should have to sleep rough on our streets.
Government statistics show that the average age of death for a homeless person in the UK is 44 for men, and 42 for women, compared with 76 and 81 for the general population. The terrible recent losses amongst the homeless community in Oxford have, quite rightly, put an even larger spotlight on the dangers of rough sleeping and homelessness and the long-term impact it has on people’s health.
OCF is a member of a partnership in Oxford that aims to tackle rough sleeping through greater collaboration between the public, private and charitable sectors. Formerly known as the City Conversation, the partnership is now branding itself “Oxford Homeless Movement”, demonstrating its strong commitment to concerted action on this problem.
The budding partnership continues to work in the context of the existing provision for homeless people in Oxford, a city that does more than many others to tackle this issue. However, we cannot ignore the fact that, despite the official count going down to 45, according to the latest intelligence-informed estimate the number of rough sleepers has actually gone up to 94 (as shown on page 3 of this City Council report). Therefore, the partnership acknowledges the need for innovative new solutions alongside the tried and tested.
Through the coordination of Project Manager Yvonne Pinner, OCF’s role is to help draw all organisations together to build a sustainable, long-term partnership based around a strong city charter. Built into the philosophy behind the partnership is that all parties are working together to help people off the streets, and keep them off the streets – with a focus on long-term solutions, not just quick fixes.
This charter, to which charities, statutory bodies and businesses will be invited to sign up, states: “We will work constructively together to increase public awareness and understanding of rough sleeping; to generate funding and commitment in kind; and to find and deliver effective, lasting solutions to end rough sleeping in Oxford.”
Oxford Homeless Movement will be launching a new website, which aims make this complex issue more understandable for the general public, and give very clear information about existing homelessness services for anyone who needs help, as well as anyone who wants to offer help. People and organisations will be able to sign up to the Movement’s charter online, with the view that homelessness and rough sleeping are issues that everyone can help to solve, and that if we all work together, we can make a real difference.
The partnership is also looking proactively at the issue of why some existing services cannot engage with some homeless people. This part of the project has already started to tackle the specific challenges faced by women, identifying some clear short- and long-term actions for partners. We will next focus on those who have no ‘local connection’ to Oxford (ie work or family), and so are currently ineligible to access many of the services. The majority of rough sleepers on our streets are affected by this no local connection rule.
Finally, OCF is leading partnership discussions about the power of different models of community fundraising. The success of the Christmas Match Fund, which raised a total of £88,000 for local homeless charities in just three weeks, proved that the public really do care about people affected by homelessness in Oxford. Making it easier for them to help, both via spontaneous giving and major philanthropy, could enable us to pioneer systemic solutions to homelessness, rather than applying short-term ‘sticking plasters’ to the problem.
If you or your organisation are interested to find out more and sign the charter in future, please contact Yvonne at firstname.lastname@example.org.