A NEW hostel will help prevent homeless people from West Oxfordshire being forced into emergency accommodation outside the district.

Horse Fair House, in Chipping Norton, hosted a special party on Thursday as the five-bedroom building opened its doors.

The first four residents moved in the next day, with West Oxfordshire District Council expecting the property to be full 'at all times'.

This will help avoid a repeat of the situation that befell 20-year-old Liam, who told the Gazette in February that the council could only offer him accommodation in Bristol.

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Many other homeless people faced similar circumstances and were often put up in hotels and bed and breakfasts in towns and cities outside Oxfordshire.

Deborah Robson-Grey, founder of Witney-based Homes4All, which aims to shine a light on homelessness in Oxfordshire, called Horse Fair a 'step in the right direction'.

She said: “Any accommodation that keeps people off the streets is welcomed.

“People should never have to leave the area, but the council is now using its money wisely to address the issue.

“It certainly shows homelessness is going on and the council is showing a better understanding.

“But there’s still a lot of issues people have to face, even when they have accommodation."

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Horse Fair House includes a shared lounge, kitchen and several bath and shower rooms, plus a self-contained basement flat and a garden area.

On Thursday, guests were given a tour of the property and heard from tenants who moved in the next day.

The refurbished building will have a 'daily staff presence' with an on-site housing relief officer, while tenants can also draw on housing benefit and client support officers and outreach initiatives.

One room is still unoccupied, but the council's housing property manager, Chauncy Seed, expects the hostel to soon be at capacity.

She said: “We are delighted we are now able to open this fantastic specially renovated facility which we will call Horse Fair House.

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"The council generally has about five households in emergency accommodation at any one time with occupation averaging 28 days so as a result, the property is expected to be fully occupied at all times.”

The property is also set to save the council the cost of placing homeless people in emergency accommodation outside the county.

There is no limit for how long tenants can stay in the new accommodation, but a council spokesperson said it would work with them to find permanent accommodation 'as soon as possible'.

The spokesperson added: "People presenting as homeless will be assessed to establish if the property is a suitable fit for their circumstances. Each case will be dealt with individually, taking into consideration the safeguarding of other residents."

Horse Fair is the only emergency homeless accommodation owned by the council, which said it is 'always reviewing our accommodation needs, including exploring options with registered providers'.