COUNCIL leaders are taking a major step towards ensuring no-one needs to sleep rough in Oxford from next winter by creating a new centre for the city's homeless.

Oxford City Council is creating the £1.6m 60-bed hub in the former job centre in Floyds Row, off St Aldates, which it owns.

The building has remained empty since November 2017, but the council homelessness team have now submitted a planning application to its building department to develop a new homeless assessment hub and provide winter-long emergency accommodation for all rough sleepers, including those with no local connection to Oxford.

Oxford Mail:

The council is spending more than £2m in 2018/2019 on tackling homelessness and is providing 212 beds this winter but still wants to do more.

A rough sleeper count in November estimated there were 94 rough sleepers, up from the previous year’s estimate of 89.

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Linda Smith, deputy leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford, and the new centre is an important part of our plans to realise this goal. Next winter we are planning to provide winter-long accommodation for all rough sleepers rather than relying on temporary emergency beds that we now activate during sustained periods of freezing weather. If we can secure funding – from the Government or elsewhere – we hope to provide a new approach to engaging with, assessing and supporting rough sleepers off the streets. We want to offer a safe place to stay for up to 60 people.

“Just as importantly we also want to provide a wider range of move-on accommodation and more joined-up support for people as they move from the streets.”

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The council is seeking a change of use for the former job centre so it can establish the daytime support and assessment base for rough sleepers and people at risk of homelessness.

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The local authority, which has already received £1m from the Government’s Rough Sleeper Initiative, is seeking more government funding to allow it to deliver the new assessment service. Council leaders intend to refurbish the Floyds Row building – which it owns and has been empty since November 2017 – to open it in the autumn.

Oxford Mail:

Funding is being sought from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Last year the demolition of Lucy Faithfull House homeless shelter in Speedwell Street began after it closed in 2016 due to funding cuts. Since then the city council has invested heavily in funding more beds for rough sleepers.