New support to help homeless people take Next Steps

Rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness stand to benefit from additional support and 17 new specialist accommodation units in north Oxfordshire.

Published: Friday, 18th December 2020

Work to provide the new housing is underway after Cherwell District Council secured £230,400 of Next Steps accommodation planning funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). The funding is provided to help local authorities find settled housing for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.

Councillor John Donaldson, Cherwell District Council’s Lead Member for Housing, said: “COVID-19 has led to a marked increase in people losing their homes or who fear that they are about to be made homeless. Over the course of the pandemic, we have helped over 80 people into accommodation, but the work continues as more people find their accommodation at risk. 

“Many of those have been insecurely housed rather than sleeping rough. Despite the large number of people affected, we are determined to recognise that each person has their own story to tell and their own needs. So, we are putting this Next Steps funding to work to create packages of support that are fit for each person’s unique circumstances.”

Nearly all of the 80 individuals worked with since the March lockdown have been helped into secure accommodation, either through the Adult Homeless Pathway or through other settled housing routes. However, the housing team continues to support a high number of single people with nowhere to stay. As of November, the council estimated that 10 people were still sleeping rough in the district on an average night.

The council’s new accommodation will include eight individual ‘Housing First’ units spread across the district and nine supported housing units in Bicester. The Housing First units, sourced in partnership with social housing providers, will be provided in addition to eight units already available in the district.

Housing First gives people who need it immediate access to permanent housing with a tailored support package to help them to tackle any lifestyle challenges. The Housing First model is unique in that once someone has gained the necessary skills they can remain in the property, taking on the permanent tenancy. 

The nine supported housing flats in Bicester will be made available for people who need help developing independent living skills so they can make a success of managing a tenancy. Once they are ready, they will be supported to move on to independent accommodation. 

A cold weather service, to support anyone at risk of rough sleeping during the winter, and four additional winter bed spaces for those in crisis have also been secured. The service will ensure that anyone who needs it will be given a rapid assessment of their requirements, and tailored support to meet their needs.

Additional incentives for private landlords to work with the council to place those at risk of homelessness into accommodation are also being funded by MHCLG grants. Alongside the government grant, Cherwell is also investing monies from its existing housing budget to support the additional accommodation and support services.

Cllr Donaldson added: “Despite the many people we have already helped in 2020, there continues to be a high number of people contacting the council because they are afraid of losing their homes. We will continue to work hard to help them and are committed to making the most of this government funding to create new, long term solutions.”

As work on the new housing schemes gets underway, the council is inviting members of the public to have their say on its new, five-year homelessness and rough sleeping strategy.

To participate in the consultation, which will end on 17 January 2021, visit www.cherwell.gov.uk/have-your-say