MILLIONS of pounds is being spent every year by Oxford City Council to combat the problem of rough sleeping in the city.

During the festive period members of the public rallied and helped to raise £140,000 to fund agencies working together to keep the homeless off the streets.

Now, for the third year running, volunteers at churches in the city have come forward to provide additional places of shelter, in various church buildings.

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Twelve churches are hosting the Oxford Winter Night Shelter from January to March, with its services running alongside those provided by the council and other homelessness agencies.

Oxford Mail:

Rev Mary Gurr, Oxford’s chaplain to the homeless, said she was pleased that 12 churches and their volunteers were taking part again.

They are St Columba’s, St Michael at the North Gate, Greyfriars, St Ebbe’s, the Christian Life Centre, St Albans, Jericho Community Centre (St Barnabas), St Clement’s, St Aldate’s, Wesley Memorial, New Road Baptist and St Matthews.

Rev Gurr said earlier: “We are again offering 20 beds each night from January 1 to March 31.

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“There will be 12 venues as there were last year.

“From Monday to Friday there is additional provision for OWNS guests only, at The Gatehouse from 8am to 10am where they can have shelter, a hot drink and access the shower - that has been absolutely brilliant.

Oxford Mail:

“One of the companies which does the laundry for some of the colleges is doing the laundry for The Gatehouse for free which has been a real blessing.”

Rev Gurr appealed earlier for volunteers for the OWNS as a Christmas Match Fund, backed by the Oxford Mail, was launched for Oxford Homeless Movement.

The movement is a partnership of many different organisations working together to ensure that no one has to sleep rough on the streets.

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The match fund, backed by the Oxford Mail concluded on January 6 and raised £140,000 for charities helping rough sleepers and to deliver new services reducing homelessness.

The total raised was a significant increase on the amount raised last year - about £90,000.

The chaplain added that the winter night shelter has proved successful in previous years.

She said: “It has started slowly this year and people are really appreciating what we are offering.

Oxford Mail:

"There were 55 people who used the service last year and we have been told by the charity St Mungo’s that at the end of the three months more than half of the people who had accessed the service - 52 per cent - did not return to rough sleeping.”

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The Gatehouse in Woodstock Road is a drop-in café for anyone who is 25 or over.

It is open Monday to Friday from 5pm to 7pm and on Sunday from 4pm to 6pm, at the St Giles Parish Rooms.

For further information about the Oxford Winter Night Shelter visit