Rise in Oxford's rough sleepers after Everyone In scheme ends

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Image caption,
The government said rough sleeping is at an eight-year low nationally

The number of rough sleepers in Oxford has increased and is now close to pre-pandemic levels, a council has said.

In 2019, 48 people were counted as sleeping rough in the city. This was cut to about 20 during the pandemic but it now stands at about 40.

Oxford City Council said it had 120 rooms during the pandemic provided by a government-funded scheme called Everyone's In, which has now stopped.

The government said rough sleeping was at an eight-year national low.

Linda Smith, the council's cabinet member for housing, said the Everyone In programme showed "where there's a will, there's a way" to house rough sleepers but "wider efforts are needed" now.

"We delivered Everyone In with the help of 120 student and hotel rooms that are no longer available since the end of lockdown restrictions," she said.

"We have now launched a countywide alliance that aims to prevent homelessness as early as possible and that works on Housing First principles - that people should be offered settled housing as a first step and then given the wraparound support they need to maintain their tenancies."

Image source, Dave Price
Image caption,
The number of rough sleepers dropped during the pandemic but has increased recently

Green city councillor Rosie Rawle said she felt an opportunity had been "squandered" after funding was stopped.

"I think there was an example there that showed us that it's possible [to cut homelessness]," she said.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: "The number of rough sleepers has fallen in every region of England, taking levels to an eight-year low.

"We are working closely with Oxford City Council to tackle the issue.

"This includes investing £3.8m over three years to support rough sleepers into long-term accommodation.

"On top of this more than £400,000 is helping those with drug or alcohol issues in the city access rehab services so they can turn their lives around."

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