Oxford had the opportunity to showcase the innovative support provided for people experiencing homelessness in the city with a visit from HRH The Earl of Wessex. Alongside other partners of the Oxfordshire Homeless Movement, we were thrilled to share how local organisations have adapted their work in response to the pandemic.

During his visit, The Earl of Wessex heard how partners in Oxfordshire Homeless Movement have worked together to provide accommodation and support for people sleeping rough in the city during COVID-19. In March 2020, the Government wrote to all local authorities calling on them to get ‘everyone in’, and to ensure every person 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 them the support they need - one of our supported houses in central Oxford, Floyds Row and The Gatehouse.

The first was to one of our renovated properties in central Oxford, contributing to the safe, secure housing of up to 30 people experiencing - or at risk of - homelessness. The Earl met our CEO Paul Roberts, OHM Chair Jane Cranston and OHM Project Manager Yvonne Pinner to learn more about the Oxfordshire Homeless Movement, before being shown round the building by Paul Roberts and April McDonnell. His Royal Highness spoke to current residents, all of whom are women who have benefited from specialist support to work through the issues that led to them becoming homeless. They have been involved in furnishing the property and caring for the garden, giving them a sense of ownership and belonging.

Paul Roberts, CEO of Aspire Oxford, said:

"Aspire is honoured that His Royal Highness included our central Oxford supported housing on the schedule for his visit to Oxford. The women’s home is part of a wider project involving five empty houses made available by one of the colleges for repurposing. By refurbishing and transforming these properties with the beneficiaries' participation, we were able to rapidly introduce supported accommodation in Central Oxford. Not only have we been able to provide each person with a safe place to live, but having a stable home is now enabling them to think about the longer term, looking into education, training and employment: all areas that call upon Aspire’s core skills."