HOMELESSNESS in Oxford has soared by 50 per cent in a year with latest figures showing 39 people are now sleeping rough.

Oxford City Council’s annual street count in November found 13 more people are living on the streets than last year and the city’s shelters are full.

Shelters such as Oxford Homeless Pathways typically have more visitors as temperatures drop in the winter.

But O’Hanlon House charity fundraiser Kaye McDougall said it’s also because Christmas can “bring it home” to many that they have no family to share the holiday with.

She said: “Homeless people quite often do not have family. Christmas reminds people they do not have those ties and it definitely brings it home.

“There is not necessarily more rough sleepers at Christmas but more people accessing services more often because of the cold weather.

“It [homelessness] is definitely getting worse. Nightly counts through outreach show we are seeing more people than we ever have.”

The lack of affordable housing has been blamed for the latest rise in the number of rough sleepers. The city council said it is “increasingly difficult” for people living in homeless hostels to move on with “unaffordable private rented sector housing”.

Leader of the council Bob Price said: “The higher figures reflect the lack of available homes with affordable rents in the city, making it difficult to access cheap accommodation.

“It also reflects a growing problem of people who are unable to work and access benefits.

“So it is a combination of cutting the welfare budget and the rise of housing costs.”

Steven Trigg lives with his dog Charlie in sheltered accommodation through the Edge Housing Project, which provides accommodation and mentoring for people who have been homeless.

Mr Trigg – a former power station worker who currently sells the Big Issue – became homeless following a relationship breakdown after which he said his “world fell apart”.

He said: “I have slept in doorways, tents, hostels and always been in Oxford. It is horrible at Christmas.

“Homelessness in Oxford is getting worse, there is not enough being done. It needs to be more hands-on on the streets.”

The city council currently spends about £1.4m on its various homeless services, of which a third comes from the county council.

Alongside housing shortages, shelters are also facing funding cuts as housing-related support is due to be reduced by 65 per cent in February from £2.34 to ££834,000 by 2016/17.

Oxford Homeless Pathways chief executive Leslie Dewhurst said: “There is a real housing crisis out there and the county council is looking to cut the budget. We have housing with over 200 people every night, although not all in this building.

“There are about 40 extra people sleeping rough any night – there is never a spare bed.”

Oxford Mail:

  • More to do: Steven Trigg, who lives with dog Charlie in sheltered accommodation

Oxford City Council will once again partner up with shelters to support rough sleepers at Christmas.

Emergency beds will be provided if temperatures are predicted to drop below 0c for three consecutive days.

Oxford Homeless Pathways is teaming up this year with Aspire – which works to get long-term unemployed back in jobs – to give those in the shelter a Christmas.

The team is currently buying presents that will be handed out on Christmas morning.

A £10 donation to the Gift of Hope campaign could provide a homeless person with a welfare pack including toothpaste and soap.

To donate see campaign.justgiving.com/charity/aspireoxfordshire/giftofhope