Floyds Row, St Mungo’s triage centre in Oxford had the chance to showcase the innovative support provided for people experiencing homelessness in the city with a visit from His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex.
Staff from St Mungo’s greeted The Earl and shared how we had adapted to work in response to the pandemic.
In March 2020 the Government wrote to all local authorities calling ‘Everyone In’ to ensure every person who was sleeping rough or living in shared hostels had access to safe, self-contained accommodation during the pandemic.
The Earl visited three venues in the city that have been crucial in helping people to come inside and offering the support they need.
The first was a property in Becket Street, which is owned by Nuffield College and has been loaned to charity Aspire Oxford for two years. They have revamped the properties for up to 30 people experiencing homelessness to now live in, whilst Nuffield plan for their long-term future use.
His Royal Highness then visited Floyds Row, a central hub and shelter for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
The building, owned by Oxford City Council and run by St Mungo’s, had only opened two months before the pandemic struck, and had to be temporarily repurposed as a triage centre because residents could not isolate safely in the building.
Members of the St Mungo’s team described to The Earl the moment they heard the news they needed to relocate the 25 people staying at Floyds Row into emergency accommodation immediately.
During Covid-19, St Mungo’s has supported more than 335 people in Oxford who were rough sleeping or accessing shared sleeping spaces to isolate safely in Canterbury House and the YHA through the ‘Everyone In’ initiative. Of those 182 people have made positive moves from emergency accommodation into longer-term housing.
Matthew Rudd, Regional Head at St Mungo’s, said: “We were delighted to be able to meet His Royal Highness and talk about the incredible work our teams have done during the last year.
“The pandemic offered us a unique set of circumstances and enabled us to work together with our partners to support some of the hardest to reach people in our community.
“We have seen many people connect, for the first time, with vital services in Oxford to support with drug and alcohol use, mental health, physical health and wellbeing.
“A great deal of work is now happening to avoid people returning to the streets, and the hope is that we will see a continued reduction in the number of people that are without a home.”
The council’s Homelessness Manager Paul Wilding explained to The Earl how the council had forged new partnerships to provide Covid-safe accommodation in hotels and student rooms, and how Floyds Row was and continues to be an integral part of the recovery from the pandemic.
His Royal Highness heard how St Mungo’s, the council and other Oxfordshire Homeless Movement (OHM) partners are providing extra support and move-on accommodation to avoid a return to the streets, in particular for those clients who have a history of prolonged periods of rough sleeping and multiple support needs.
Paul Wilding, Rough Sleeping and Single Homelessness Manager at Oxford City Council, said: “It was a pleasure to be able to tell The Earl of Wessex how we’ve worked closely with other Oxfordshire Homeless Movement members to help people experiencing rough sleeping off the streets, both before and during the Covid-19 emergency.
“During the pandemic we’ve used Floyds Row to give people the right support to come inside and make plans to leave the streets behind for good.
“We hope the vaccination programme will allow a full return this year, putting Floyds Row back in its proper place as the centrepiece of our joint work to prevent and end the need for anyone to sleep rough in Oxford.”
The final stage of The Earl’s visit was to The Gatehouse, which has been operating as a drop-in day centre for the people in need for more than 30 years, and is where OHM’s Lived Experience Advisory Forum (LEAF) is based. LEAF ensures that people with current or recent experience of homelessness are consulted as part of local planning and decision-making.