Initially a trial for a 12-month period, the accommodation is available for people who are from southern Oxfordshire and who have a history of rough sleeping and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. All referrals to the project are made by housing needs officers at South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils, who help people find suitable accommodation to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping.
The new housing project provides a total of eight bed spaces, that are a mix of shared and self-contained accommodation. Advance Housing and Support own the properties and have prepared and equipped the properties ready for people to move in.
In November 2018 the first residents moved in and the project is now fully occupied. Among those now living at the properties, some had a long history of rough sleeping, whilst others were sofa-surfing or about to lose their accommodation. All suffered mental ill health, often made worse by a precarious and uncertain housing situation.
Early signs are very positive with residents using the support provided by Oxfordshire Mind staff to help build their ability to live independently; by managing their tenancy, registering with health services and accessing any additional mental health support.
They are also being encouraged to join the wider community through starting work and volunteering. The aim of the project is for residents to be equipped and able to move on to independent accommodation within 12 months.
The Oxfordshire Mind Housing Project is part of a wider approach being developed by South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils to tackle homelessness across both districts. The councils already fund supported housing for rough sleepers with a local connection and the housing needs team continues to develop innovative approaches to tackling homelessness before it happens.
Cllr Caroline Newton cabinet member for housing for South Oxfordshire District Council said: “Both councils are committed to minimising homelessness and recognise that the best approach is a clear focus upon early intervention and prevention.
“This project is a new way of offering support to the rough sleepers in our districts with our organisations working as a partnership to help vulnerable people with all their needs.”
Cllr Elaine Ware, cabinet member for housing for Vale of White Horse District Council said: “The housing needs team at the councils has a successful track record of preventing homelessness in the districts. However, there are occasions when vulnerable households need additional support to secure and maintain their accommodation.
“The aim of this trial is to help homeless people with a connection to South and Vale areas to get the appropriate support they need to stay off the streets and stay safe.”
For more than 50 years Oxfordshire Mind has provided supported accommodation to people suffering from mental ill health across Oxfordshire.
Dan Knowles, Oxfordshire Mind CEO, said: “Four in five people with mental health problems have lived in housing that has made their mental health worse, 40 per cent of people with mental health problems have experienced stigma or discrimination in the place they live at the moment.
“Research carried out by Homeless Link shows that 45 per cent of homeless people have been diagnosed with a mental health issues – nearly double that of the general population – and 80 per cent of homeless people self-reported some form of mental health issue.
“Here at Oxfordshire Mind we are proud to have a long history of providing high quality supported housing across the county. We are very excited to work with South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils to provide more housing options for persons who are homeless and who suffer from ill mental health and who may not be eligible to access other supported accommodation services.”
Advance Housing and Support spokesperson said: “We are proud to be working with South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils and Oxfordshire Mind to provide safe homes and support for people who are vulnerable or have been homeless. A good quality home with the right support in place provides stability and is a platform on which to address wider health and wellbeing issues as people more towards independence.”