Every Christmas St. Mary’s supports a charity for the homeless in Oxford throughout the month of December. This year we have chosen the Oxford Winter Night Shelter
Homelessness can happen to anyone. There are many causes, relationship breakdown, unemployment, mental health issues, substance abuse just some of them. Frequently it is a combination of these, rather than a single cause. The latest count in Oxford found 27 rough sleepers, a considerable drop from recent weeks. During the pandemic the Everyone In initiative offered all who were rough sleeping accommodation, funded by central government. Although this has now ceased, considerable efforts are being made to house people by organisations both in the statutory and voluntary sectors. Most of those housed will find themselves in the private rental sector, where their tenancies will still render them vulnerable.
The future is uncertain. It is likely that with the massive increases in fuel and the cost of living, more people will fall into homelessness, with the consequent impact of the lives of those individuals who are affected.
The Oxford Winter Night Shelter was inaugurated in in 2018. It operates from January to March, providing shelter for rough sleepers whose stay varies from one night to 88 nights. They will have been verified as rough sleeping by St Mungo’s the outreach team and are referred by them. The shelter keeps them safe and warm at night, during the coldest winter months.
This year 7 city centre churches in Oxford are involved and offer a rota of accommodation venues in church halls. Guests arrive at 21.30, are welcomed, offered drinks and snacks and are in bed by midnight. They are woken at 07.00 and, after some breakfast, leave at 07.30. They can usually book a bed for the next night.
Each venue is staffed overnight by a shift leader who will have overall responsibility for that night’s activities. A further six volunteers will assist, two arriving at 21.00 to help set up and welcome guests, two overnight and a further two to help with breakfast and clearing away. away. Those who do the overnight shift, including the shift leader, will be able to catch a bit of sleep.
Many guests have now been housed. In 2019 it is estimated that just over half of these guests did not return to rough sleeping. Having a secure warm dry place to spend the night during the winter months is beneficial. Guests are rested and thus better able to work, to engage with agencies who can help them and are in better shape mentally, physically, and emotionally.
OWNS has now opened a small day centre, The Living Room, in St. Clements. This offers respite, hospitality, and encouragement to those who are homeless and vulnerably housed and provides clothes washing facilities, a shower, laptops, food, drink and a listening ear.
You can support our Christmas appeal by using the donation page at the link below at any time during December…
…Or by donating at the carol service or by cheque (made payable to Iffley PCC in an envelope marked Christmas Appeal) through the church office door.
Let’s make this a special Christmas again!