Staff and volunteers at an employment charity supporting rough sleepers have been renovating properties in Oxford to help the homeless.

The government has provided financial support to the city council to try to ensure that rough sleepers are all provided with somewhere to stay during the coronavirus pandemic.

But while many rough sleepers have been taken off the streets the problem has not gone away.

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Last week it emerged that three homeless people, one woman and two men, had died.

Two were living in supported accommodation at the time of their deaths and all three were known to have experienced rough sleeping.

Oxford Mail:

The team in Becket Street

Aspire recently joined forces with Bouygues Energies & Services to rebuild two homes to help those facing homelessness, poverty and disadvantage.

The company links up with the council to install street lighting across Oxford and has a long-term partnership with John Radcliffe Hospital, providing facilities management.

Members of both the street lighting team and the John Radcliffe team took part in the initiative.

With the help of funding from the Ministry of Housing, the partnership refurbished two previously unused blocks of housing in Oxford’s Becket Street.

Tim Grier, director of transport and local government at Bouygues Energies & Services, said: “Our partnership with Aspire Oxford is going from strength to strength, and we are proud to continue supporting disadvantaged people in Oxfordshire by assisting in the transformation of these houses into ready-to-occupy accommodation to support those in urgent need this winter.”

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The volunteers cleaned and repainted the houses, improved the gardens and carried out electrical works to get them ready for the new residents.

Oxford Mail:

These works mean the homes are now ready to be used in time for the colder weather, with one block allocated as winter shelter. The second block will be a women’s only project, providing dedicated housing support.

Oxfordshire’s housing situation is the single biggest issue that the county faces.

Aspire has been tackling the most complex social issues in Oxfordshire for over 18 years, supporting vulnerable local people into and towards employment and housing.

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Aspire CEO Paul Roberts

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Aspire chief executive officer Paul Roberts said: “Aspire is delighted to have been able to work with members of the Bouygues Energies & Services team to bring our new supported properties in central Oxford online.

"Having such a dedicated group of volunteers on board has meant that the work has progressed at pace, and we are practically ready to open the houses. This support has also provided existing residents with opportunities to get involved.”

Oxford Mail:

Aspire staff

Peter Galley, Bouygues energies and services contract director at the John Radcliffe Hospital, said: “We were delighted to be able to work with Aspire to provide volunteers to support another project.”

This is one of a number of initiatives that Bouygues Energies & Services has been supporting Aspire with (alongside John Radcliffe Hospital) over the last 12 months.

The company has previously worked with the charity to provide employment opportunities for vulnerable people facing homelessness.

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Colin Smith, who recently joined Bouygues Energies & Services through this initiative, said: “I left the RAF in February 2018. I managed to find somewhere to live and started my own business, but my landlord passed away, and I had to fold my business as I was homeless.

"Aspire helped me with the council, and encouraged me to attend more events organised for veterans. "With all of Aspire’s help and encouragement, I have a place to live and a full-time job working at the John Radcliffe Hospital as a maintenance engineer with Bouygues - a job I am enjoying.”