A SERIES of deaths of homeless people in Oxford has been branded unacceptable by the manager of city shelter.

Claire Dowan, CEO of Homeless Oxfordshire which runs 56-bed hostel O'Hanlon House, said it was a 'stark reality' that rough sleepers were losing their lives, as temperatures drop below zero.

She spoke out after it was revealed that several homeless people have died in the city since November.

Oxford Mail:

It is understood that Sharron Maasz, 44, and Aron Gibson, 37, had been looked after by Homeless Oxfordshire, while Czeslaw Mazak, 36, originally from Poland, had been sleeping rough in a tent and had refused the offer of help from agencies.

READ AGAIN: New £1.6m homeless hub planned for former Oxford job centre

Ms Dowan said: "It is a stark reality that particularly over the winter rough sleepers are going to lose their lives.

“It’s becoming an increasing issue nationally and as one of the country’s larger cities it also affects us here in Oxford – we are ranked sixth highest nationally in terms of the numbers of rough sleepers.

“But I do not accept that this should be happening – we are doing everything that we can to save lives – no one who is homeless on the streets of Oxford should lose their lives.

Oxford Mail:

“Our services do save lives and we are trying to accommodate as many people from the streets as possible and give them a safe space overnight in the cold weather but as the numbers increase, it gets harder.”

The number of homeless people in Oxford has increased: in November it was estimated that the number of rough sleepers in the city was 94, up five on the previous year's estimate of 89.

READ AGAIN: Rough sleepers can seek emergency SWEP beds in Oxford

The city council is spending more than £2m in 2018/2019 on tackling homelessness and is planning to provide accommodation for all rough sleepers by next winter.

Earlier this week the council announced a £1.6m plan to create a hub for up to 60 homeless people in the former job centre in Floyds Row, off St Aldate's.

Deputy leader of the city council Linda Smith, also board member for housing, said: "Rough sleeping is the visible tip of a much wider housing crisis, and the city council takes homelessness prevention extremely seriously. Every death of a rough sleeper is a death too many.

“The average age of death for a homeless person is 44 for men and 42 for women, compared with 76 and 81 in the general population. Homelessness kills, and the best way to help a rough sleeper is to get them to come inside – where they can get the accommodation and support they need to rebuild their lives away from the streets.

“We’re providing 212 beds for rough sleepers this year, and from next winter we’re aiming to provide winter-long accommodation for all rough sleepers.

"We’re also working with local homelessness organisations, community groups and individuals to develop a citywide partnership with the aim of ensuring that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford.”

Oxford Mail:

The problem of rough sleeping nationwide has worsened in recent years.

A total of 597 people sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation were estimated to have died in 2017 in England and Wales, a 24 per cent increase from 2013.

Following Ms Maasz's death on January 21 an inquest was opened and adjourned by Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Oxford's rough sleeper estimate is double the total street count figure

Ms Maasz died in homeless accommodation after a long period sleeping rough and suffering ill health.

Mr Gibson died at the McDonald’s in Cornmarket Street on December 2, with police saying his death was unexplained but not suspicious, while gardener Mr Mazak was found dead in Hythe Bridge Street on December 6 and police said his death was being treated as unexplained.

On Monday the city council activated its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) to provide additional accommodation for rough sleepers.

Oxford Mail:

SWEP launches when the Met Office forecasts overnight temperatures of zero or below for three or more consecutive nights.

Anyone who needs a bed must present themselves at O’Hanlon House between 9pm and 9.30pm, and they will be allocated a space in one of three main venues in the city.

City council spokesman Dave Lansley said SWEP would continue throughout the weekend.

Oxford was as cold as Moscow during the early hours of yesterday, falling to -4C and the freezing conditions are set to continue.

Funding for the new homeless hub in Floyds Row 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 was closed in 2016 due to funding cuts.

Homeless people have been sleeping rough in tents near O Hanlon House if it is too full to offer them accommodation.

A Christmas Match Fund backed by the Oxford Mail, supporting the work of nine homeless agencies in the city, raised £76,000.

This article was amended on February 1 2019 to remove references to the death of Otis Galloway in a house run by Homeless Oxfordshire.