A NEW approach to tackling rough sleeping at a £1.9m shelter should reduce the number of people living on streets, a leading city councillor has pledged.

Floyds Row, a former job centre off St Aldate's has been fully adapted by the city council to accommodate the homeless and 20 clients are expected to move in tomorrow.

The new shelter is the centrepiece of the council's plans to transform services for people at risk of and experiencing homelessness across the county and will be run by staff from the St Mungo's charity.


Linda Smith, cabinet member for leisure and housing, said the new centre was 'remarkable'.

She added: "I’m proud we’re delivering on our commitment to provide more and better support to people experiencing rough sleeping.

“Nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and thanks to the hard work and commitment of our staff and all our partners we’ll have the best chance of achieving this ambition once Floyds Row is fully open in April.”

The first conversations with people sleeping rough will no longer take place in the cold but in the new shelter, a safe space co-designed by people experiencing homelessness.

Project manager Polly McKinlay said: "All the services are based around getting people into their own home.

"This is not a home - it is about getting people off the streets and onto the next stage.

"This is not meant to be long-term accommodation - we are working with clients to find them somewhere to move onto."


The rough sleeping problem has increased in Oxford in recent years and there have been a number of deaths.

The city council has spent millions of pounds addressing the problem - in September it opened £3.7m Matilda House in Cowley.

Oxford Homeless Movement has brought together a number of different agencies working to tackle rough sleeping.


The movement's Christmas Match Fund, backed by the Oxford Mail, raised £140,000 and some of the proceeds will support work at Floyds Row.

The council is working with NHS partners and Oxfordshire’s five other councils to develop a countywide homelessness strategy.


This will create an approach focused on prevention, early intervention and moving people on from rough sleeping.

The Floyds Row shelter's role in this programme is to get people off the streets and into sustainable housing more quickly through improved assessment and a range of new accommodation and support services.

This includes access to onsite drug, alcohol and medical support.


St Mungo’s recent experience of delivering similar services in London has seen 80 per cent of people leaving the streets behind and Floyds Row was designed following visits to a similar centre in Hackney.

The new centre off St Aldate's is opening in stages and its first occupants will move from the Somewhere Safe to Stay service, and winterlong shelter, now at Simon House in Paradise Street.


Somewhere Safe to Stay offers beds for up to seven nights for people at risk of sleeping rough, and new rough sleepers while they participate in an intensive assessment.

This identifies suitable housing and links people with other support they need.

When the Met Office forecasts that the overnight temperature will drop to zero or below the council activates its severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) and makes extra beds available for anyone who wants to come inside. Floyds Row will now be one of Oxford’s three SWEP venues.


Ms McKinlay added: "I’ve enjoyed working with Transition by Design and Jessop and Cook Architects, who have been truly ambitious in their vision.

"There is still a lot of work to do before April when the whole service opens."


Lucy Warin, project designer at Transition by Design, said: "Throughout the consultation we listened carefully to what people had to say; about dogs, security, separate provision for women, activities, and about sound, light and air."

Different types of lamp shades have been fitted to give the centre a cosy atmosphere.

The conversion of the former job centre has been undertaken by Oxford Direct Services, the council’s wholly owned company which operates like a social enterprise.


From April the new shelter will provide an assessment service and up to 56 beds for people at risk of or experiencing rough sleeping.

Somewhere Safe to Stay and the winterlong shelter will provide up to 20 and 16 beds respectively.

There will be another 20 'staging post' beds for people who have been assessed by Somewhere Safe to Stay and need more time to move on to other accommodation.


Ms Smith added that Labour Party leadership candidate Keir Starmer was due to visit the shelter tonight.