First tenant moves into new housing project for homeless people in southern Oxfordshire

A former rough sleeper has started the new year by moving into a new home thanks to a new housing project for homeless people in southern Oxfordshire.

Six new long-term homes have been provided for former rough sleepers in the south of the county following the success of a pilot project called ‘Housing First’ run by South Oxfordshire District Council and Soha Housing in partnership with Aspire Oxfordshire.

Housing First offers former rough sleepers with complex needs the opportunity to be rapidly rehoused into suitable accommodation where they receive intensive and long-term support provided by Aspire Oxfordshire.

This is different from the traditional “pathway approach” offered to rough sleepers. The pathway approach often begins with emergency accommodation, then moving to supported accommodation before finally receiving an offer of long-term accommodation if they are assessed as suitable. This can be unsettling and difficult to manage for people who often have multiple complex needs.

The pilot project began in South Oxfordshire in 2019 when six households accepted an offer of long-term accommodation and support. All are still in their homes and are celebrating the new year away from rough sleeping.

This new extension of the Housing First project will also be part funded by the Vale of the White Horse District Council, in addition to money from South Oxfordshire District Council, Soha Housing and the government.*

When rough sleepers settle into permanent homes it is not just a success for the individuals themselves.  The costs associated with rough sleeping for the Police, Social Care, NHS and other support agencies are significantly reduced.

The Housing First Project is part of both councils’ homelessness and rough sleeping strategy which has three central aims:

· to prevent homelessness whenever possible

· to end incidents of homelessness at the earliest opportunity

· to end the need for rough sleeping

In November 2020 – as part of the Government required annual rough sleeper count – only one person was recorded as rough sleeping in the Vale and three people in South Oxfordshire (down from three in Vale and four in South Oxfordshire in 2019).   This has been achieved despite the substantially increased demands placed upon the homelessness service, including managing the impact of the pandemic**

Cllr Helen Pighills, Vale of White Horse District Council’s cabinet member for healthy communities, said: “We’re delighted that the first resident in this phase has been able to begin this new year by moving into their own home.

“The councils aim to end rough sleeping and the success of this project is a big step forward as part of that plan.”

Cllr David Rouane, South Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet member for housing and the environment, added: “Homelessness has a shattering effect on the lives of individuals and families. Housing First offers security by offering long-term  accommodation sometimes straight from the streets. That kind of stability can have a transformative effect on people’s lives.”

Jude McCaffrey, Interim Director of Housing and Communities at Soha said, “This new funding enables Soha to provide our second batch of six Housing First homes and a small budget for white goods and furniture. Homes will be allocated based on where the people need to live and achieving the best outcome for them. The grant also pays for Aspire Oxfordshire to support the residents one-to-one to overcome often long-term challenges – which they have previously faced without family, professional or charity advocates helping them stabilise their lifestyle – and the health toll of even intermittent rough sleeping.”

“The aspiration for Soha, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils is that, as people no longer need support, we free up time for us to offer more homeless people this opportunity.”

Notes to editors

*The funding for this project of £84,000, which includes extending the support for the pilot scheme tenants, is made up as follows:

The government puts in £18,080, Soha Housing £27,750, South Oxfordshire District Council £19,085 and Vale of White Horse £19,085

** The report records the number of people sleeping rough in a particular district on a particular night. The record was made on 10 November 2020.

In 2019/20 there were 49 and 31 confirmed incidents of rough sleeping in South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse respectively. This year the pandemic and lockdown have increased the reported cases of rough sleeping which the housing needs team act rapidly to resolve.

Soha Housing will host an event with Oxfordshire County Council to showcase Soha’s rural Housing First model and show how it might be adapted by other Registered Providers. It takes place on 4 February between 2 and 4pm online. For more information please contact Joanne Worth, PA to Jude McCaffrey, Soha’s Interim Director of Housing and Communities, on jworth@soha.co.uk or 01235 515 900.

About Aspire Oxfordshire

Aspire is a multi-award-winning employment charity and social enterprise. It empowers thousands of people across the local community each year to find fulfilling employment, secure housing and obtain the knowledge, skills, confidence and resilience they need to make lasting, positive life change and leave homelessness, poverty and disadvantage behind – for good.

More information is available at

www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/housing

www.southoxon.gov.uk/housing

www.soha.co.uk

www.aspireoxfordshire.org