ROUGH sleepers in Oxford dealing with mental health problems and addictions could benefit from extra funding to improve the support available.

Public Health England has opened up applications for local authorities to bid for a share of a £1.9m pot of funds which will aim to improve the health of those sleeping on the streets.

Successful projects will focus on improving access to health services for people living with both mental ill-health and substance misuse problems who are currently, or at risk of returning to, rough sleeping.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Most of us can only imagine what it is like to sleep rough and it is devastating that so many aren’t getting the right access to healthcare. Living with a mental health condition or substance misuse while homeless can lead to a vicious cycle of crisis where people can’t get their lives back on track and their health issues remain unsupported.

“Today’s announcement, along with our NHS Long Term Plan, will provide a crucial lifeline to those at risk of being left with nowhere to go and is an important step towards achieving this government’s goal of ending rough sleeping for good.”

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Examples of how the funding could be used, include ‘in-reach’ care models where specialist substance misuse or mental health workers run sessions in hostels or day centres in order to engage people with substance misuse and mental health needs, or ‘outreach’ models where specialist workers engage people who are sleeping rough at the street level, in order to support them in to services.

The number of homeless people in the city has increased - the estimated figure rose in November to 94, compared to 89 the previous year.

Director of Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco and Justice at Public Health England Rosanna O’Connor, said: “We know that people sleeping rough, particularly those with mental health and substance misuse problems, often find it difficult to use local health services.

“Without getting the vital help and support they need to look after their health problems, some of the most vulnerable people in our communities face a ‘revolving door’ situation where they are repeatedly in and out of stable accommodation, while their health deteriorates.

“This funding will enable the testing of models that are effective in breaking this pattern and in helping

The deadline for councils to submit an application is Friday, July 5, with successful projects announced in the summer and awards made later in the year.