The pandemic has driven some problems out of sight. We are used to seeing homeless people in Oxford, but during the lockdown, it is a reality most of us no longer need to confront on a daily basis.
The truth is that few groups have been hit as hard as those without a home. For anyone without permanent shelter, Covid-19 has been a terrifying ordeal
Why is Homelessness Such a Problem?
Even before the pandemic, many people in Oxford were without a home. The city is a hub for services many homeless people rely on, but funding cuts have reduced the ability of charities and community groups trying to get help to those who need it. With less help available, more people are forced to sleep rough.
This is part of a national trend. In 2019, it was estimated that there had been a 23% increase in the number of homeless households since 2018.
Oxford is also a notoriously expensive city to rent in, which greatly exacerbates the problem. A recent study ranked Oxford as the the 3rd most expensive city in the UK in terms of rent. On average people in Oxford spend 32% of their salary simply to keep a roof over their heads.
The stigma around homelessness masks a grim reality: it is very, very easy to end up sleeping rough. In 2018, an ING survey found that around 27% of British households had no emergency savings. For many of us, even those who may feel secure, it only takes a run of bad luck for homelessness to become a real possibility.
Homelessness During Covid-19
This has been a very frightening time for homeless people. Organisations many rely on have had to re-think the way they operate, while various charities have had to shut down entirely.
Obviously, homeless people are at a greater risk of catching Covid-19. But there are knock-on effects beyond this. For those lucky enough to have found somewhere to stay, there are still the issues of food, medicine, and other necessary supplies.
To make matters worse, the lockdown has itself caused an explosion in youth homelessness. It is also likely that the situation is about to get much worse.
Currently, there is a moratorium on evictions. However, this will end in June, and the government has not confirmed whether or not the moratorium will be extended. If it is not, with at least 2 million people now unemployed, many more people will find themselves without a home.
What Have We Been Doing?
There are many fantastic organisations who work on homeless issues in Oxford. We have been working with many of them to deal with the challenges posed by Covid-19.
- We are working with the Oxford Homeless Movement to support 130 people in temporary accommodation and have provided toiletries, books, clothing, puzzle books, and tea and coffee supplies.
- We are providing weekly deliveries of fruit to the Gatehouse for distribution among the vulnerably housed.
- Our Kitchen Collective is making twice weekly deliveries of re-heatable meals to people temporarily housed in the Lismore Hotel in Banbury.
- We have provided the Mayday Trust and Response with toiletries, cleanings supplies, face masks, DVDs and books for those in supported accommodation.
- OxWash is laundering bedding, which we then distribute to various organizations. We are also providing these organizations with clothes for the precariously housed.
- We have found emergency short term accommodation for 12 homeless people who were unable to access elsewhere
We are hoping to start making care packages for homeless people and the precariously housed. In addition, we want to be able to offer sun hats and reusable water bottles in preparation for the Summer heat.
If you’d like to get involved, we are always looking for new volunteers – you can also donate, and help us source the supplies we need.