Oxford City Council have opened a new hub to reduce the number of people sleeping rough this winter.
Located at New Road Baptist Church, opposite the Westgate Shopping Centre, the hub is now open as a pilot between 10am and 4pm Monday through Wednesday.
It will provide a space for St Mungo’s, an Oxford-based homeless charity which runs the Oxford Street Population Outreach Team (OxSPOT), to assess the needs of and engage with rough sleepers they are in contact with.
The new hub aims to tackle homelessness in Oxford using a “multi-agency approach”, and will be used by other groups focused on the issue including Aspire, Crisis, and Turning Point. The Council hopes this will speed up the process of moving rough sleepers into accommodation.
The opening of the hub is a response to the cold temperatures of last winter, during which Cherwell reported that Oxford City Council had activated its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) for a total of 31 nights.
The protocol is activated when the Met Office forecasts sub-zero overnight temperatures for three or more consecutive nights, and the Council and charities subsequently provide extra shelter for rough sleepers in the city.
The project is being funded by central government, under its Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) Grant, which targets councils with high levels of homelessness. The Council made a successful application for £503,000 for 2018/19, and a further £511,000 for 2019/20 has been provisionally awarded by the government.
Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council, Councillor Linda Smith, said: “Oxford City Council is committed to working with partners to deliver our vision that nobody should have to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford.
“St Mungo’s will be working in the hub with our staff and other services to make sure rough sleepers get the accommodation and support they need to rebuild their lives.
“RSI funding is only temporary, and we need the government to make a commitment to fund desperately-needed services for longer than the next two winters if it is serious about ending homelessness.
“The RSI grant means we’re spending more than £2 million this year tackling rough sleeping, and it will make a real difference. But it is only a start.”