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Homeless services 'at breaking point'
HOMELESS services in Oxford are being “stretched to breaking point”, a campaigner warned last night after a major centre announced it was being evicted.
Pete Bonney, who has lived on the streets, said charities are working overtime following the closure of the homeless project.
We reported yesterday that Oxford City Council has served the Gatehouse with an eviction notice due to “financial pressures”. It is planning to relocate.
Last year, homeless service The Gap Project, in Park End Street, closed down after losing its funding.
Mr Bonney, 72, who worked with The Gap and other projects, said: “Things are getting worrying for homeless people.
“There is no guarantee that the Gatehouse will not have to close temporarily while looking for a new home.
“Combine this with the closure of The Gap, and you are talking about a huge strain on the remaining resources in the city.”
Mr Bonney, of Wood Farm, said: “We talk to a lot of homeless people and it’s quite clear that services are stretched to breaking point right now.”
The Gatehouse, which helps up to 100 people a day, has been based at Northgate Hall in St Michael’s Street for nearly 20 years.
The council says it needs to find a more profitable way to use the building.
Brian Stevenson, 48, who lived homeless in Oxford for two years before moving to Birmingham last year, said: “By and large the help on offer to homeless people in Oxford was great.
“People were very kind and there were places for us to eat and get clothes and other places to sleep. Health advice was also available.
“It’s worrying that services are being taken away from vulnerable people.
“In a city as wealthy as Oxford you’d hope there would be provisions made for people who have hit hard times.”
Since 1991, the Gatehouse paid the council a low rent for the building. It offers homeless people food, shelter and health and employment advice.
The council said the loss of fellow tenants in the building left it “seriously under-occupied”.
Gatehouse project director Andrew Smith said he understood the council’s dilemma and urged anyone who could help with new premises to get in contact.
Cllr Joe McManners, board member for housing, said the decision to evict the charity was “regrettable”.
To contact Mr Smith call 01865 792999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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