A new £1.9m homeless shelter has been opened on Floyds Row, becoming the centre of Oxford City Council’s plans to assist people experiencing homelessness across Oxfordshire.

The Council has converted the former job centre at 1 Floyds Row into a new assessment centre and shelter, receiving £727,000 in government funding to help temporarily house 56 homeless people, though only 30 will move in immediately.

Floyds Row will aim to accelerate the process of getting people off the streets and into sustainable housing by offering improved assessment, and accommodation and support services. Drug, alcohol and medical support will be available onsite.

The homeless charity St Mungo’s is running the new facility on behalf of the Council. Services that are being provided include the winter shelter, the Somewhere Safe to Stay service and Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) beds.

Somewhere Safe to Stay started last year as a service for the newly homeless and those at risk of homelessness, providing an assessment that identifies suitable housing and links with other support to prevent long-term homelessness. 20 beds for this service will be provided in Floyds Row.

Linda Smith, the Deputy Leader of the Council and cabinet member for leisure and housing, said: “The transformation of services for people experiencing rough sleeping in Oxfordshire is already underway through our work to deliver a countywide homelessness strategy and the opening of Somewhere Safe to Stay and a winterlong shelter. 

“The opening of Floyds Row is a fundamental change to the front end of homelessness services and it will be a catalyst for change across the wider system. I’m proud we’re delivering on our commitment to provide more and better support to people experiencing rough sleeping. 

“Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and thanks to the hard work and commitment of our staff and all our partners we’ll have the best chance of achieving this ambition once Floyds Row is fully open in April.” 

From its opening, Floyds Row will provide 16 winter shelter places, running until March before they are provided again from October. Extra beds will be made available if the Met Office forecast the overnight temperature to drop to zero degrees or below.

A further 20 beds will be provided for people assessed by Somewhere Safe to Stay and need more time before they move on to other accommodation. Floyds Row join Matilda House and O’Hanlon House in providing facilities for those seeking long-term shelter.

The chief executive of St Mungo’s, Howard Sinclair, said: “Our thanks to everyone who has worked so hard together to reach this point where we can offer such excellent, safe and comfortable shelter to people coming in from rough sleeping on the streets. Once people are here, then it’s the opportunity for staff to talk individually about what they want long term and the options available. We hope this service, and the support St Mungo’s will provide, will help people to begin to rebuild their lives and leave homelessness behind.”

St Mungo’s will continue to run Floyds Row year-round. The London based charity was established in 1969. Its 17 outreach teams provide a bed and support to over 2,850 people every night.

Around Floyds Row, the Council has been developing a broader countywide homelessness strategy, with Oxfordshire’s 5 other councils and NHS partners. Their long-term goal is to create an effective system that focuses on prevention, early intervention, and moving people on from homelessness.

Before the opening of Floyds Row, the Council had been operating temporary measures to help assist the homeless running through Simon House, on Paradise Street, which provided interim services such as the winterlong shelter and intensive assessment. 

Until its demolition in August 2018, Lucy Faithfull House was used by the Council to address homelessness, providing up to 62 beds. The site is now being redeveloped into a new block of 36 flats, 15 of which will be used for social housing.