More “common sense” and “joined up policies” are needed to help North Oxfordshire’s homeless following a change in legislation.
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into force last month and increases the number of people eligible for council help.
Mark Chivers set up the Bicester & Oxfordshire Street Smart (BOSS) group seven years ago to collect and distribute donations of clothing and other items to homeless people.
He said the affordable housing crisis, local government and NHS funding cuts has seen spiralling homeless numbers increase “at a shocking rate”.
According to BOSS, the Bicester area has around 15 to 20 people struggling with homelessness, with a similar number of ‘sofa surfers’ relying on short-term accommodation with other people.
Mark pointed the finger at
increasing rents and building new homes to suit families rather than single people as reasons for the number of homeless in Bicester.
He said: “As with many local councils, Cherwell District Council looks to fulfil its legal obligations.
“Without the resources to properly fund services, and pay for staff to go out and speak to homeless people and those under the threat of becoming homeless, it is difficult to know how effective CDC is.”
Some of the new legislation changes include extending the period during which someone can be considered to be at threat of homelessness from 28 days to 56.
It also requires the council to carry out an assessment and to create a personalised plan in which both the council and the applicant agree a
set of actions to end a period of homelessness or the threat of homelessness.
“Even with the council’s Choice Based Letting service it is hard for any single person to find social housing if they aren’t a pensioner,” Mark added.
“While funding will always be a critical issue in tackling homelessness there also needs to be some common sense and joined up policies from all of the authorities concerned.”
Cherwell District Council will carry out a review in a year to decide whether it needs to modify its approach.
Cllr John Donaldson, the authority’s lead member for housing, said Cherwell is “in a good position to respond” to the new legislation as “it already has a prevention-based approach to homelessness”.
He said: “It increases our duty to assist households regardless of priority need or local connection.”
Anyone who is homeless or worried about becoming homeless can call the council on 01295 227004.