AGENCIES supporting rough sleepers in Oxford say they are overwhelmed by the ‘incredible’ generosity of people who gave cash to help the homeless over the festive period.

In a campaign backed by the Oxford Mail, Oxfordshire Community Foundation last month launched the Christmas Match Fund, which doubled any donation to Oxford Poverty Action Trust.

The fund, which launched on December 10 and ran until January 6, has raised a total of £76,000.

Cash from the fund will go to nine agencies, including Aspire, The Porch and Simon House, to directly help the homeless in Oxfordshire.

Aspire Oxford spokeswoman Helen Mariner said: “The response from the public has been absolutely incredible.

“With homelessness on the rise, getting this boost to our funding is critical and hugely appreciated.”

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Rough sleeping has increased dramatically in recent years and on any night there could be more than 90 people sleeping on city streets.

OxPAT is a charitable trust which operates with the full support of the city council and offers an alternative to giving money directly to rough sleepers.

OCF is giving £1 for every £1 donated via OxPAT’s website, or city centre collection boxes, with OCF matching donations up to £50,000, and organisers are hopeful that a total of £100,000 could be raised.

Linda Smith, deputy leader of Oxford City Council, and board member for housing, said: “The best way to help rough sleepers is to donate to Oxford’s homeless charities and services, and OxPAT directly supports organisations which help people off the streets and to rebuild their lives after homelessness.

“I am really pleased that the Christmas Match Fund has been such a success. I would like to thank everybody who donated, Oxfordshire Community Foundation for their generosity in doubling the difference those donations will make, and the Oxford Mail for backing the campaign.”

Paul Roberts, CEO of Aspire Oxford, said the funding was vital to help organisations ‘to collectively respond to Oxfordshire’s growing homeless crisis’.

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He added: “The money raised will enable Aspire to support homeless people into employment, prevent vulnerable people from slipping into homelessness and support rough sleepers into secure housing.”

Jayne Woodley, chief executive at Oxfordshire Community Foundation, said: “We’re delighted with the fantastic response to help homeless people in Oxford this winter, with many people donating online and as part of festive collections in the city.”

The nine beneficiaries are Aspire Oxford, Crisis Skylight Oxford, Elmore Community Services, Emmaus Oxford, Homeless Oxfordshire, Oxford Street Population Outreach Team, The Porch Day Centre, Simon House and SMART/CJS (Howard House).

Last month it emerged that a rough sleeper estimate in November was 94, an increase from last year's estimate of 89. On Thursday, 12 churches in Oxford launched the Oxford Winter Night Shelter, which provides overnight beds for rough sleepers and runs until March 31.