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Charity Spotlight: Homeless Oxfordshire

"Over 30 years ago, we were known as the Oxford Night Shelter. In a shabby old school building, we provided overnight accommodation to anyone who needed it. We transformed classrooms into dormitories with 12 beds in each, and provided everyone with food, washing facilities and as much support as possible. Today, Homeless Oxfordshire is the largest provider of temporary accommodation for homeless people in the county.

Each night we accommodate approximately 220 people. We are one of only 7% of organisations in England to provide emergency, second-stage accommodation and specialist services for homeless people. As well as our 56-bed hostel based in Oxford city centre, we also host an extra 20 people a night through our Sit Up service. In the community we have 24 properties providing low, medium and high level support for clients. And when the temperatures drop, we accommodate even more people.

But we are more than bricks and mortar. We run different supported projects to help people create change in their lives that lasts; so they can go on to live independent and fulfilling lives. No two people are the same, but there are common themes within homelessness; relationship breakdown, mental health, substance misuse, domestic abuse, care leavers and ex-offenders. And without a stable home, these themes escalate and often interlink, making an individual’s situation far more complex than just the need for a roof over their head. 

Simon came to our hostel, O’Hanlon House, 15 months ago. A chef for over 35 years, Simon lost his job due to ill health and his life spiralled out of control. At his lowest, Simon was forced to sleep on the streets: “I was thankfully not on the streets for that long – about a week. But a week too long”.

Speaking about O’Hanlon, Simon said: “Everything is so easy here – it’s like a home. I was made to feel a part of the family. There were good days and bad days, I used to get a little bit depressed some days and used to hide myself away. But I was always encouraged to come down and join in. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the place eventually. I didn’t want to go”

With our support, Simon got his health condition under control and started to rebuild his self-esteem. He recently moved into his own social housing flat, which will be his forever home: “I adore it! The neighbours are very nice, the residents are very nice. We had a quiz night the other night and we have Sunday lunches together. I’ve got everything I want.” Although Simon will miss us, he plans to visit often: “I’ve put my name down to volunteer in the kitchen at O’Hanlon house. I’ve been given so much, I just want to give back.”

Homelessness is complex. There are no quick fixes or one-size-fits-all solutions to solving the homelessness crisis. Real and lasting change requires long-term support. And despite bearing the brunt of the funding cuts, we are always creative in our solutions and clients are always at the heart of everything we do.

Our purpose is to support people out of homelessness for good. We listen to our client’s hopes for the future and help them to achieve their goals. Each journey is different. But we’re here, every step of the way, to help people change their lives."