MORE than £9 million has been budgeted to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping in Oxford next year.

Oxford City Council announced it will budget £9.1 million, an increase on the £6.3 million spent in 2019-20.

As the country entered the first lockdown in March, the Government issued an ‘everyone in’ direction for councils to provide emergency housing for rough sleepers and vulnerable homeless people to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Short-term funding to provide this came from the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP).

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This funding currently ends next March, however a further award of medium-term funding from NSAP means the overall budget for the council stands at £9.1 million.

Mike Rowley, the city council’s cabinet member for affordable housing and housing the homeless, said: “Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and increased investment in preventing homelessness during the pandemic demonstrates our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable people in our community.

“Everyone in is a national initiative, but I am proud of the way we have implemented it locally.

Oxford Mail: Labour city councillor Mike Rowley Labour city councillor Mike Rowley

“We are an inclusive community with a globally recognised and important role to play in the pandemic. As a city, we always think of others. At this time of year, in this year of all years, it is especially poignant.

“Our investment and the tireless work of partners like Aspire and St Mungo’s strengthens our ability to provide support – and hope – to people experiencing rough sleeping and vulnerable homeless people in these challenging times.”

So far the council has housed 291 people under ‘everyone in’ arrangements.

Of these, 121 have been supported into more permanent housing.