AN OXFORD homeless community plans to expand because it fears rough sleeping will get worse in the city.

The Emmaus Oxford charity hopes to make more living space available at its Cowley base.

Director Wyon Stansfeld said: “Depending on how you measure it, Oxford has got one of the worst homeless problems in the country.

“Authorities all over the country are reporting more people sleeping rough and we are expecting it to get worse.

“Changes in housing benefits is one of the things which is making it worse.”

There are 24 people now living at the charity’s community in Oxford Road. While at Emmaus, residents are given work recycling furniture and other donated items for the charity’s stores in Northway and Templar’s Square.

Mr Stansfeld said its plans would allow another four people to live in the neighbouring property, which formerly housed an Emmaus staff member.

He added: “This application is a sensible development of our project. Most people now recognise that the project is taking people off the streets and it is having an effect on reducing crime and issues relating to drugs.

“In a way, this will be a stepping stone for the residents into independence, but they will still have the same support.”

Oxford City Council’s planning officers are recommending councillors approve the charity’s plans to turn two warden flats into housing for the homeless.

Their report says it “would not be harmful” to neighbouring houses and no objections had been made.

A decision on its housing expansion will be made by the council’s east area planning committee at a public meeting tomorrow. Emmaus is negotiating with the council to create a furniture store in Barns Road, Cowley, which Mr Stansfeld hopes will open in 2014.