THE deaths of nine homeless people on the streets of Oxfordshire between October 2018 and June 2019 has led to calls for improvements to the help available for rough sleepers.

But the official review also shines a light on who some of the people who have been stuck in a lifestyle of rough sleeping are, and highlights the complicated problems they face.

The review, commissioned by the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Adults Board after a request from Oxford City Council, did not focus on the individual rough sleepers.

It removes the names of all the people whose deaths it interrogates for answers.

But it does draw attention to the shared mental health issues, the drug and alcohol problems, and the trauma and abuse suffered by the homeless.

Of the nine people whose deaths led to the report, all had experienced some form of drug or alcohol abuse and had some physical health problems.

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Some were living with mental health problems or memories of trauma, such as a man referred to as Adult P, who was just 37 when he ‘collapsed and suddenly died’.

He had been given a place to stay before his death, but had a long history of homelessness which began with changes the Conservative-Lib Dem Government made to housing benefits in 2010 that meant he could not get extra help to pay for accommodation.

He had been the victim of assault, had been in hospital because of drug abuse, and had ‘ lifelong struggles from adverse childhood experiences’.

Others had nowhere to turn to after having become estranged from their relatives.

A man named as Adult V died at 35 years old of multiple organ failure after he was admitted to hospital with sepsis.

Oxford Mail:

He had likely been living on the streets as he had no fixed abode.

He had lost a job due to an injury and was suffering from epilepsy and seizures caused by alcohol withdrawal.

He was estranged from his family in Poland and the conditions of a residency permit meant that he had no recourse to public funds: he was unable to claim most benefits.

Adult V had also turned down help with alcohol abuse treatment, had been arrested for assault and had also been attacked.

Another man, called Adult X, had nowhere to live and died of severe pneumonia at the age of 58.

He also had a history of using illegal drugs and abusing alcohol and had no contact with his siblings, who lived in Nottingham.

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Throughout the report there were also references to domestic abuse, which was more likely to be a problem faced by women rough sleepers than men.

There was a reported history of domestic violence between a woman referred to as Adult W and her former partner.

She died at the age of 40, found in her bed at the accommodation she had been provided.

The report said the woman’s alcohol misuse could possibly have ‘masked her mental health issues’.

Her children were also reported to have needed protection when she had been living with them.

But at the time of her death, they were living with her former partner.

She sometimes did take up the offer of help from support services available, but this was apparently ‘erratic’.

Oxford Mail:

Another woman, Adult T, was reported to have an ‘unexplained’ death at the age of 44.

She had been the victim of both domestic abuse and sexual offences and was diagnosed to have a borderline personality disorder.

She had been living in a women-only hostel in the run-up to her death, and had convictions for shoplifting and drunkenness.

Adult T had children living with relatives, who had witnessed domestic abuse.

The charities, councils, hospitals and even the police involved in looking after Oxfordshire’s rough sleepers have all said they have learned lessons from the review.

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Among them was Mike Rowley of Oxford City Council, who acknowledged that even if lessons had been learned, rough sleeping continues to be a problem for Oxford and other areas of the county to this day.

Mr Rowley said: “As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact more people are at risk of becoming homeless and will need services to support them.

“We will see increasing demand but without additional resources, so it is more important than ever that agencies work closely together to support people at risk of homelessness before they reach crisis point.”

On top of new rough sleepers caused by the new economic slump, there are still a core group on the streets suffering from complicated problems which means they are less likely to accept help.

Throughout the pandemic, this group of approximately 20 people are still sleeping outdoors, despite new Government cash provided to help them.