OXFORD City Council is to set up a 'review' into the deaths of homeless people in the city, after grief turned to anger in the homeless community.

UPDATE: Another homeless death - churchyard man was sleeping rough

Deputy leader Linda Smith, board member for housing, said : “We have been saddened and concerned by the recent unexplained deaths of people who were, or had been, rough sleepers."

Labelling the situation 'a tragedy playing out on our streets', she continued: “Clearly, our city has to do all we can to get people off the street and into available help, and we work with all relevant authorities to look at the facts of each recent death and understand if there are any common factors.


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"We have already had discussions about setting up a review into what has happened.”

It follows Oxford Greens saying the situation has got so bad that an independent enquiry is required.

Green group leader Craig Simmons said: "As a city, we need to urgently look into each of these tragic deaths, and see what lessons can be learnt to ensure nothing like this can happen again.

Oxford Mail: Craig SimmonsCraig Simmons

"Any enquiry must listen to the voices of those living on our streets who are too often ignored."


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Monica Gregory, from Women’s Hope Forum, is particularly concerned about homeless women.

She said: “I’m someone whose experienced rough sleeping and homelessness. Everyone, but especially women, needs a safe space. They are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

“Women need their own spaces to help with their recovery. It’s a vicious circle. Many women have experienced domestic violence when they end up on the streets or homeless. "People feel sad, angry and worried."

Oxford Mail: Monica Gregory with Kaz DumaMonica Gregory with Kaz Duma

Kaz Duma, a 61-year-old street artist who is not homeless but supports the homeless community, added: "I knew Sharron (Maasz, who died last month) – she was like a daughter to me.

"I think its disgusting, nobody gives a damn (about the deaths).

"The government don’t care, all they want to do is patch them up and dump them back on the streets to die – there is no aftercare.

"People are just giving up."

She continued: "Where is the after care when they come out of hospital?


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"The council need more places for women and young people to be safe and someone needs to keep an eye on them."

Claire Dowan, the CEO of Homeless Oxfordshire, which runs O'Hanlon House, has said the deaths represent a 'stark reality' and that 'no one' should die on the streets of Oxford.

At the annual street count, the city council counted 45 rough sleepers but it estimates that there are 94 rough sleepers in Oxford. Others suggest the number could be significantly higher.

A newly recognised BEM in Oxford has hit out at the ‘shame’ of people dying on the city's streets.

Shabnam Sabir, who runs the Oxford Homeless Project, said the deaths were especially troubling given Oxford's wealth.

The 44-year-old sixth form co-ordinator said: “Those that died have lived very difficult lives in the lead up to their deaths. There is only so much suffering a homeless person can take before it takes it toll.

Oxford Mail: Shabnam SabirShabnam Sabir

Ms Sabir continued: “People on the street are subject to every kind of struggle from poor health, addiction, hunger, cold weather.

Profile: Shabnam Sabir

"It’s a day to day struggle mentally and physically. It’s no wonder the average age is 43 of a homeless person and this is really shameful for a wealthy place like Oxford or indeed UK.”

Prominent homeless campaigner Shaista Aziz said the issue is 'a national emergency', and women are most vulnerable.

The City Councillor, who co-founded the Labour Homeless Campaign, added: “Homelessness is a national humanitarian emergency. It’s borne out of austerity, cuts to rehab, mental health and specialist services but it’s also a symptom of a housing crisis where people are being evicted with no rights.

Calling it a 'national crisis that should shame us all', she added: "Many women experiencing homelessness have been through domestic violence and some have been subjected to sexual violence. Their needs are urgent, complex and immediate.

Oxford Mail: Shaista Aziz (right) with Monica GregoryShaista Aziz (right) with Monica Gregory

“The Council is doing more than ever to alleviate the symptoms (and) has applied for almost every pot of funding available.

"Everyone working with individuals experiencing homelessness is devastated by the deaths. It is only by these individuals lives being acknowledged beyond statistics that homeless services and the council can move forward."

Government statistics show the average age of death for a homeless person in the UK is 44 for men and 42 for women, compared with 76 and 81 in the general population.

A memorial to those who have died will be held in St Aldates Church on Thursday, February 14.