Oxford City Council is relaunching a service it provides for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

Starting in April, Somewhere Safe to Stay will offer self-contained accommodation instead of communal spaces, providing a private setting where homelessness services can effectively engage with the homeless.

This move follows the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)'s decision to withdraw funding from homelessness projects with shared living spaces from April.

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Floyd's Row, once considered the heart of the Council's transformation of homelessness services and co-designed with people experiencing rough sleeping, will be closed.

The space was unable to operate during lockdown due to its shared living spaces and its future loss of DLUHC backing.

Oxford Mail: Councillor Linda SmithCouncillor Linda Smith (Image: Oxford Mail)

Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing, said: "Floyds Row was co-designed with people experiencing rough sleeping and with full approval from our government funders.

"However, DLUHC has now made it clear it will no longer support projects with shared sleeping spaces in the wake of Covid-19.

"We looked at all options for keeping Floyds Row open but this could only be at a much-reduced capacity under today’s public health guidance.

"Without DLUHC support, it is just not viable in the current financial climate and we’ve been forced to make the difficult decision to close Floyds Row."

The new approach will involve a 'hub and spoke' model, comprising a central assessment hub, eight rooms in the city centre, and 15 additional rooms in shared houses around Oxford.

St Mungo's will relocate its assessment services from Floyds Row to Homeless Oxfordshire's O'Hanlon House, providing eight Somewhere Safe to Stay rooms with 24-hour staffing for those with high support needs.

The remaining 15 rooms will cater for people requiring lower support levels.

Lauren Paraskeva, regional head, St Mungo's, said: "St Mungo's aims to end homelessness and rebuild lives, we aim to support people away from the streets for good.

"With the Floyds Row building closing, St Mungo's have ensured that all clients have a relevant plan in place to support their onward recovery.

"We also provide outreach services in Oxford with specialist teams who are out multiple times a week wherever they are needed, helping to make every night someone’s last on the streets."

The DLUHC has committed to funding £59,000 in renovations at O'Hanlon House.

The revamp promises considerable cost savings for the Oxfordshire Homelessness Alliance; closing Floyds Row will result in an annual saving of £394,000.

The closure, however, makes Floyds Row untenable for subletting, leading to the Council's consideration to sell or lease the entire building.

The Council is currently seeking external advice on maximising potential financial returns.