Source: Geograph

Oxford City Council has declared “no return to rough sleeping”, following its acquisition of new accommodation for rough sleepers in the city.

In a press release yesterday, the City Council announced that it has secured a lease on 124 rooms of “interim housing” until July 2021, as a result of an agreement which means that the Council will acquire the Canterbury House student accommodation on Cowley Road.

Canterbury House, owned by A2Dominion, has served as accommodation for Oxford Brookes University students but will be converted into interim housing for homeless people and rough sleepers. The Council has also extended its lease on the YHA Hostel on Botley Road. Together, the sites will provide 118 rooms of accommodation.

The news comes as campaigners call for the end of rough sleeping in the UK amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, following the Government’s decision in late March to order local authorities to provide safe accommodation for all rough sleepers.

Since the beginning of the UK’s lockdown, Oxford City Council has worked with local hotels and university colleges to provide accommodation for rough sleepers, who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions and a lack of access to hygienic washing facilities.

The City Council has disclosed that 203 local homeless people have been housed in Oxford hotels and student accommodation since late March, with 76 supported into long-term housing. However, agreements with colleges and hotels are set to come to an end soon.

A new homeless centre at Floyd’s Row, which began operating in January, was unable to open fully earlier this year because of social distancing concerns. However, the the facility has functioned as as a “triage centre”, run jointly by the Council, St Mungo’s and Luther Street Medical Centre, to coordinate accommodation for the newly homeless.

In June, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced new funding of £105 million for local councils housing rough sleepers under Government orders. Oxford City Council has applied to the scheme, but has called on the Government to extend the interim funding beyond the current period.

On the Council’s website, Councillor Mike Rowley explains that “interim housing is the bridge between emergency accommodation and more permanent solutions. It also means we’ll be able to keep offering housing and support to people who become homeless over the coming months, including the winter beds that were provided in shared spaces before the pandemic.”

The Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Luke Hall MP, adds: “We now have a real opportunity to ensure that as many people as possible do not return to a life on the streets.”

Homeless Oxfordshire has been contacted for comment.

Oliver Shaw

Oliver (he/him) is one of the Editors-in-Chief of The Oxford Blue for the winter vacation and Hilary 2021. Oliver is from Warwickshire and is in his final year studying History at Merton College.