Campaign to get rough sleepers off the streets working, say organisers

thisisoxfordshire: Jaffa Holland Jaffa Holland

A CAMPAIGN to get rough sleepers off Oxford’s streets is working despite a spot check showing an increase, according to homeless shelter staff.

The No Second Night Out campaign was launched in July last year to stop people spending more than one night sleeping on the streets of Oxford by the end of 2012.

The project by Oxford City Council and Homeless Link set up an Oxford base at O’Hanlon House for homeless people in Luther Street.

The number of rough sleepers counted in Oxford during a random spot check commissioned by the council in November was 12 people, which was up by four counted in the same month in 2011.

Oxford City Council spokesman Louisa Dean said 10 of the 12 counted during the check were long-term rough sleepers, which the scheme is not aimed at, and two were sleeping rough for their first time.

She said: “You can’t change people’s beliefs. Some people do not want to engage with services, so to say the campaign has failed would be wrong.

“The team, which includes external agencies, have been working hard to tackle rough sleeping in the city.

“They identify and help rough sleepers off the streets and either reconnect them to their own community or provide them with assistance within the city.

“However, there may be reasons why some people don’t want to engage with the services that we provide.”

Staff at the Oxford Homeless Pathways’ O’Hanlon House, said their beds had been used 114 times in the six months the campaign was running.

Jaffa Holland, the No Second Night Out project leader based at O’Hanlon House, said that the campaign had achieved “definite victories”.

He said: “Our outreach team recently worked with a lady who had been rough sleeping for around eight years.

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“Initially, she found being indoors too much and returned to the streets, but the team continued to work with her and now she is ready to move onto independent living after just a month in a hostel.

“Of course the whole process has been a learning curve. If you want No Second Night Out to succeed you need clear goals and guides of what you can and cannot achieve.”

Staff at the hub offer rough sleepers a space at O’Hanlon House or at Lucy Faithfull House in Speedwell Street or Simon House in Paradise Street.

So far as part of the No Second Night Out campaign Oxford Homeless Pathways says it has helped 92 people secure a suitable place to live since July.

Chief executive of Homeless Link Rick Henderson said: “The 2012 ‘deadline’ to end rough sleeping may well now be a thing of the past, but it is clear from initiatives such as No Second Night Out in Oxford that the vision and motivation to end rough sleeping hasn’t faded at all.

“Services across the country are now working better together than ever before towards a common goal and this work will continue into 2013.

“We believe that rough sleeping should be a thing of the past.

“It can be difficult to keep your eye on a vision like that when so many environmental factors seem to be getting in the way.

“Tightened resources mean we are inevitably seeing a rise in homelessness and rough sleeping.”

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