PIONEERING work to help combat homelessness in Oxford should continue when a government-backed project comes to an end, council leaders have been warned.

The Trailblazer project, backed by about £1m of government funding, has been pumping resources into trying to ensure rough sleepers have somewhere to stay when they come out of prison or hospital since 2017.

But the two-year programme comes to an end in August and council leaders at last night’s executive board received a report which suggested further investment will be needed once Trailblazer ends.

Read also: Oxford food bank searching for new home amid eviction fears

The countywide scheme received £790,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and a further £100,000 from the Oxfordshire local housing authorities, providing a total of £890,000.

The report to last night’s executive board said: “The interventions of the Trailblazer are having positive impacts on both people at risk of homelessness.

“Some of these outcomes have also saved significant sums of money as a result of avoiding delays in discharging people from hospital, or in avoiding the costs of taking children into care.”

It added: “Trailblazer’s second year will involve work to overcome system barriers to effect permanent change which will reduce the risk of homelessness.

Read also: Driverless cars could soon use lasers to help fix potholes in Oxfordshire

“However the systems that the programme is working in are under great pressure.

"Trailblazer represents a £890,000 investment in preventing homelessness, so the end of the programme will represent a consequent reduction in support for preventing homelessness if there is nothing to replace it. As such the programme will be researching options for the funding of ongoing services.”

In November a city council estimate showed there were 94 rough sleepers in Oxford, up on the previous November’s total of 89. The city council has pledged that it is working towards no one needing to sleep rough in Oxford by next winter.

Read also: Our new Zero Emissions Zone plan is better – because we listened to people

The Trailblazer project commissioned Aspire Oxford and Connection Support to deliver the new services on its behalf.

Board member for housing Linda Smith said: "In the first year, embedded housing workers and community navigators have prevented around 140 households from becoming homeless. The Trailblazer project will build on learning from its first year and deliver hundreds more successful outcomes in the next 12 months.”

Aspire’s team is made up of six support workers, who seek out and offer support to people at the very earliest signs of homelessness, while Connection Support is providing a team of six embedded housing workers.