With the massive cut in Oxfordshire County Council funding for homelessness (voted through in 2016 by the Tories supported by Labour and the LibDems) and rising numbers of homeless people in Oxford City and elsewhere, the situation has reached crisis levels.
The response from Oxford City Council, the authority with a statutory responsibility for housing and homelessness, has been poor. They tried to introduce a draconian Public Spaces Protection Order to fine beggars (which was considerably watered down after a Green Party campaign) and recently voted down a Green motion to divert some of the £4m allocated for spending on expanding a car park to re-furbish and re-open the City-owned Lucy Faithful House homeless hostel.
A leading Labour Councillor was recently forced - as a result of pressure from the Greens - to apologise after he said on BBC Radio Oxford that homeless people were a 'disgrace' and 'ought to have more respect'.
Homelessness is undoubtedly a complex issue but, after spending time supporting the Oxford 'Open House' movement and talking to individuals and organisations involved in homelessness support, the Greens have put together an achievable Ten Point Action Plan to help tackle homelessness in Oxford.
- Reverse County funding cuts & increase the City’s homeless grant
- Re-furbish and re-open Lucy Faithful House homeless hostel
- Change ‘local connection’ rules so more rough sleepers are helped
- Revoke the City Centre PSPO; which fines and criminalises the homeless
- Introduce an Empty Spaces Protocol to make vacant properties temporarily available for the homeless
- Change ‘severe weather’ rules to offer earlier shelter to homeless
- Introduce new Council-backed letting agency offering fairer rents and more secure contracts
- Make homes built on Council land 100% social housing - work with nearby Councils to build more affordable homes
- Offer more support to organisations that offer 'safety net' services such as the Oxford Homeless Project
- Use compulsory purchase powers to buy-up long-term vacant sites
UPDATE: MAY 2017
- Greens succeed in getting Oxford City Council to work on an Empty Spaces Protocol based on the successful Iffley Open House.
- Green Councillors donate some of their ward member spend (a grant given to Councillors each year to spend on good causes) to the Oxford Homeless Project
- Green motion to Oxford City Council (24th April) to re-open Lucy Faithful House fails to win Labour support. The meeting was filmed by a member of the public https://youtu.be/t9Sffshm9-A