A CAMPAIGN calling on people to help the homeless in Oxfordshire this winter has raised a grand total of £60,000.

The Oxfordshire Homeless Movement has run a winter campaign for the last three years, backed by the Oxford Mail.

This year, the charity which co-ordinates efforts to help rough sleepers find a home received £40,000 in donations from people across the county, topped up by a further £20,000 of match funding from the Oxfordshire Community Foundation.

Among those who have helped include web design agency Versantus, which donated money it would usually spend on Christmas festivities, and local residents who gave at community celebrations such as a Christmas lights event in Besselsleigh.

ALSO READ: Summer opening for new Oxford Premier Inn next to Westgate Centre

Paul Birtles, whose Covered Market business the Garden of Oxford raised money for the appeal, said: “We were happy to be able to do our bit again this year and support Oxfordshire Homeless Movement.

“It’s upsetting at the best of times to see people sleeping rough in the city centre, and I can’t imagine what lies in store for people as the fallout of the pandemic becomes more apparent.

"We’re grateful for the work that OHM is doing and are proud to support them.”

Buoyed on by the Government’s call to bring in rough sleepers from the streets at the start of the pandemic, the charity committed to ending rough sleeping in Oxfordshire ‘for good’ when it began its winter appeal.

The Government has been helping to fund efforts to move former rough sleepers into more long term homes, so the money raised by the appeal will be used to kick off a new project for those the Government legally cannot help.

Some rough sleepers have not been able to access help because they have pending asylum claims in the UK and are legally not allowed to have publicly funded support.

One of the projects OHM will fund from the £60k donations will be a project to help these people with so-called ‘no recourse to public funds’ find a home away from the streets.

It is thought around 10 per cent of rough sleepers are in this situation, and OHM is setting up a project which will help 30 people move into secure homes, which OHM claims will help them ‘become self-sufficient, contributing positively to the community in Oxfordshire’.

Funds from the Christmas appeal will also be used to help ensure that the voices of those with real-world experience of homelessness are heard in local decision-making, by paying for a forum where rough sleepers and formerly homeless people can talk about the kinds of help they need.

READ AGAIN about the origins of the appeal here

OHM vice-chair Neil Preddy says: “We are delighted that the generosity of the local community is enabling us to begin this crucial project, which if successful could help bring about an end to rough sleeping in Oxfordshire altogether.

“It is an example of OHM’s work filling the gaps that others can’t, thanks to a partnership approach where we work together to understand the needs and create a viable solution.”

Oxford Mail editor Pete Gavan said: “It’s fantastic to see to such a large amount raised and shows the people of Oxford recognise the importance of the issue and how they could help.

“It’s great to see an appeal the Mail threw it’s weight behind being such a big success.”