Christy Spenle, Oxford Homeless Pathways, 24th January 2012

What did we learn?
That OXHOP runs the what was called The Night Shelter, its been going about 25 years.
They also run Julian Housing, more about that later.

So some years ago many homeless people stayed for a while in one county before moving on to access services elsewhere, moving around and then coming back later. Now Oxfordshire and other counties operate a “Reconnection Policy” where a homeless person must have a connection with the area to get services in the long term. This has drastically reduced the numbers from 1000 to 300 of people coming to the shelter in a year. There’s also more focus now on the individual. Most may stay for 3-6 months whilst working on a support plan to move them forward.

So how do you become homeless? Well mainly it’s as a result of a relationship breakdown with family. Drugs and alcohol and other abuse may well be involved too. We heard it takes about 2 years before someone leaves home and eventually reaches rock bottom and turn to the street needing a place in O’ Hanlan House (the night shelter). People may have spent that time moving around, using up favours as they go.
Christy often used the phrase ‘rock up’ to describe them turning up in need of help. Sometimes pets come too (dogs & cats lend emotional support but others include a rabbit and a pigeon!) It’s 87% men. And what with the financial turmoil of 2 years ago more people are seeking places.

O’ Hanlan House sleeps ~50 with residents given 3 square meals.
They need to work to plan to put them back on track. Many are vulnerable. Self harm is more of a risk than violence between clients.
External services are accessed using their personal plan for literacy, IT, avoid relapses, other training.

So after 6 months hopefully there are in a better state to go on to the next stage of shared housing.
Their own scheme is Julian Housing, 14 shared houses some clean, some dry, some with cameras in for the more vulnerable.
Others housing schemes are also available like Kemson House, Two Saints. MIND runs houses too.
Funding is 90% through statutary bodies like local and national authorities, e.g. Housing Benefit.

We asked many questions and the talk was close to an hour in the end.