Homelessness is a real problem in Oxford and it can be hard to know how best to find support if you are sleeping rough, or how to provide it to others who are sleeping rough, whether they ask you directly for help or not.
It is important to think of your own safety too - many homeless people have mental health problems or may have taken drugs which make them act chaotically. Luckily, there are lots of services available to homeless people in Oxford. Here is some information to help you find the help you need if you are homeless, or which can be passed on to homeless people you meet who have specific needs.
|If you (or someone you know) want(s)...||then...||More Information|
|shelter for somebody sleeping rough within the Oxford City boundary||Contact the Oxford Street Population Outreach Team (Oxford SPOT) on 01865 304611||Both SPOT and COS will need detailed information about where the person is sleeping, and ideally also their name and mobile phone number.
Local authorities can only help homeless people who fulfil criteria related to their legal status in the UK, and whether they are vulnerable, in priority need, intentionally homeless, and have a local connection (each of these terms has a specific meaning in law). So it is quite possible that the local authority may not be able to help someone sleeping rough.
When it is very cold out, rough sleepers may be able to sleep on the floor at O’Hanlon House (the homeless shelter) even if they do not meet the above criteria.
Some rough sleepers may not want to follow the ‘homeless pathway’ offered to them by the local authority, which typically involves a stay at O’Hanlon House. For instance they may have enemies at O’Hanlon House; or they may want to stay off drugs, which may be more difficult to do at O’Hanlon House. This might limit what the local authority can do for them.
|shelter for somebody sleeping rough in other parts of Oxfordshire or elsewhere||Contact the ‘COS team’ at Connection Support on 01865 711267 or use the very user-friendly site Streetlink , who will pass on the information to the local authority.|
|food||go to the Gatehouse, 10 Woodstock Rd, OX2 6HT, 01865 792999||Open Mon-Fri 5-7pm and Sun 4-6pm. Serves free soup, sandwiches, and hot drinks.|
|OR Steppin Stones / The Porch, 139 Magdalen Rd, OX4 1RL, 01865 251798||Open for lunch Mon-Sat 12:30-2pm and dinner Mon-Sat 4:30-6pm. People first need to become ‘members’ of Steppin Stones for £1.|
|OR O’Hanlon House, Luther Street OX1 1LU, 01865 304600.||Provide lunch 12:30-1:30pm to people who have been ‘verified’ – the person in question should go to O’Hanlon House to do this.|
|It is also possible to request a food bank voucher.||This can be obtained from a doctor, social worker, Job Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau etc. More information on this is available here.|
|A whole database of help||Oxford City Council have put together a map and database of everywhere in Oxford offering free food, and whether it is openly available or if you need to be referred.|
|medical help||go to Luther Street Medical Centre, Luther Street OX1 1LU, 01865 726008||Luther Street is specifically for homeless people, who are not accepted at NHS surgeries because they don’t have a permanent address. It is first-come-first-served Mon-Fri 9am-12:30pm, with booked appointments in the afternoon. The practice specializes in addiction, mental health and other health problems of homeless people.|
|to shower or wash clothes||go to Stepping Stones/The Porch, as above||Costs £1.50 for a shower, £1.50 for washing clothes.|
|OR O’Hanlon House, as above||The person in question would need to be ‘verified’ by O’Hanlon House first, but then shower and clothes washing is free.|
|clothes||Steppin Stones, O’Hanlon House or Gatehouse, as above.||They all have clothes stores from which people can take clothes for free.|
|help coming off a drug or alcohol addiction||go to Turning Point, 27-29 Rectory Road, OX4 1DU, 01865 261690||Many homeless people use drugs or alcohol to cope with the unpleasantness of homelessness. You may want to volunteer to go with the person in question if it is not yourself, as trying to kick a habit is a major step in someone’s life and they might want support.|
|support/to learn new skills||try Crisis, Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, OX1 2AQ, 01865 263900||Crisis offers a wide range of free activities and training, including IT, CSCS (construction site safety), arts, drama, ‘build a bike’ etc. It is very highly regarded.|
|OR Steppin Stones, as above||SS also offer activities and support. They have allotments at Elder Stubbs.|
|OR O’Hanlon House, as above||O’HH offers support and activities, again after the person has been ‘verified’.|
|OR Aspire, St. Thomas School, Osney Lane OX1 1NP, 01865 204450||Aspire focus on getting people back into employment. You first need to fill in an application form and be accepted into Aspire’s programme. For many people this may be too challenging at first, and Crisis might be a better starting point.|
|to register to vote||There is an application form here||Being homeless does not mean you need to be disenfranchised. This is a special form to fill in if you do not have a fixed address, where you declare a local connection. You can pick up your papers at the Electoral Office in Oxford Town Hall. You will need to give an address where you spend a large part of your time, though this could be an open space or shelter.|
Most of the information here was compiled by Riki Therivel for an article which first appeared in The Sprout, Botley's local magazine. Thank you to Riki and The Sprout for letting us reproduce this.
Oxford City Council have also issued some suggestions about ways to help, some expected and some less obvious, and although this is directed towards help around Christmas time, many suggestions are generally useful. Their info is here.
The Oxford Homeless Project is an important source of hot food and company, and welcomes extra donated dishes. Their events take place fortnightly on Mondays, at the Asian Cultural Centre in East Oxford. Keep an eye on their Facebook group for updates - when they are next meeting, any particular donations they need, and any other events.