‘Budget cuts will have huge impact on homeless people’

The Oxford Times: Lesley Dewhurst talks to Mark Hankinson at O’Hanlon House hostel in Luther Street. Picture: OX64226 Damian Halliwell Buy this photo » Lesley Dewhurst talks to Mark Hankinson at O’Hanlon House hostel in Luther Street. Picture: OX64226 Damian Halliwell

ONE of Oxford’s three homeless hostels could close if proposed budget cuts go ahead, a charity boss has warned.

Lesley Dewhurst, chief executive of Oxford Homeless Pathways, which runs O’Hanlon House in Luther Street, said that a 38 per cent cut to Oxfordshire County Council’s budget to keep people off the streets would have a huge impact.

Under its plans to save £64m over the next four years, the county council has announced a proposal to cut its £4m housing-related support budget by £1.5m.

A large chunk of the budget – £1m in total – is spent by Oxford Homeless Pathways on running shelters O’Hanlon House and Julian Housing and on managing Oxford Homeless Medical Fund.

Ms Dewhurst has warned that loss of funding could result in a closure of one of the city’s three hostels – O’Hanlon House, run by Oxford Homeless Pathways, Lucy Faithfull House and Simon House.

She told the Oxford Mail: “It will be a massive hole in our budget and I cannot consider sustaining a service with a third less money.

“Keeping the building safe, working with people you have never met before – you have to have staff on all the time.

“It is not a cheap thing to run.

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“It depends how they are going to carve the cuts up.

“They could decide to just close one of the three hostels in the city – I think it could be a possibility.

“But each of us have about 60 people and that is another 60 people sleeping rough.”

She added: “It is actually far more costly to have people hanging round on the streets – A&E, the police – and people pick up worse habits on the streets.

“It is an expensive way of trying to save money.”

Dad-of-two Mark Hankinson has been homeless on and off for about 11 years after he lost his job and went to prison.

The 45-year-old, who is staying at O’Hanlon House in Luther Street, said: “For homeless people the hostel is a big help. It is not just a matter of a bed and a meal – we have a worker who supports you.

“It is a big stepping stone.”

On the proposed cuts, he added: “I think there will be lots more people on the streets.”

Philip Cartwright, 60, secured a flat in Wolvercote in October thanks to the support of O’Hanlon House, but was homeless for 29 years before that. He had been in and out of prison.

Mr Cartwright said: “The council has really got to think about what it is doing.

“If you are on the street you become the council’s problem, but once you are in this place you are the problem of the hostel.”

The proposal comes after county council cabinet members said they were still committed to supporting vulnerable people in the county, despite cuts of £7.1m in adult social care and £6.4m in children’s services.

At a meeting at County Hall on Tuesday, cabinet member for finance Arash Fatemian and other senior Conservative councillors spoke of the difficulty they faced in putting the budget together.

Mr Fatemian said: “There are a number of groups representing worthy causes which have had to have their budgets cut.

“The sums we are talking about are £50,000 here and £100,000 there, but that quickly adds up to £1m, and my question for them is would they rather I found that saving in the adult social care or children’s services budgets?”

Oxford Homeless Pathways will discuss the cuts at O’Hanlon House tomorrow at 5.30pm.

Comments (4)

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10:07am Thu 19 Dec 13

lizbarter says...

It would a very expensive way of saving money, and this article has captured the terrible false economy in terms of financial and human cost well.

There are terribly difficult decisions to be made in deciding how best to spread the impact of the cuts, which are by their nature impacting on the most vulnerable across the board.

It really must be borne in mind, however, the number of cross-cutting issues that homelessness services address, and that homelessness simply is not an issue in itself, but a symptom of multiple other needs and disadvantages,

Front line staff working with homeless people do phenomenal work for a comparatively low wage, filling the gaps between services that many clients desperately need but by virtue of the complexity of their problems have terrible difficulty accessing. Addictions and mental health problems but also learning disabilities, domestic abuse, traumatic personal histories and long term physical health problems. They contribute quietly and sometimes even invisibly to an array of social and public health services.

The services are not cheap to run but they are enormously cost effective in terms of reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, A& E presentations and hospital admissions.

To close a shelter in a city like Oxford where the need is so great would be really shameful.
It would a very expensive way of saving money, and this article has captured the terrible false economy in terms of financial and human cost well. There are terribly difficult decisions to be made in deciding how best to spread the impact of the cuts, which are by their nature impacting on the most vulnerable across the board. It really must be borne in mind, however, the number of cross-cutting issues that homelessness services address, and that homelessness simply is not an issue in itself, but a symptom of multiple other needs and disadvantages, Front line staff working with homeless people do phenomenal work for a comparatively low wage, filling the gaps between services that many clients desperately need but by virtue of the complexity of their problems have terrible difficulty accessing. Addictions and mental health problems but also learning disabilities, domestic abuse, traumatic personal histories and long term physical health problems. They contribute quietly and sometimes even invisibly to an array of social and public health services. The services are not cheap to run but they are enormously cost effective in terms of reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, A& E presentations and hospital admissions. To close a shelter in a city like Oxford where the need is so great would be really shameful. lizbarter

2:04pm Thu 19 Dec 13

Brickbed says...

Fair rent tribunals should never have been abandoned, the housing market is now a lie in Oxford. The owners of most of Oxfords letting agents drive around in Ferrari's or oversized 4x4's. They are destroying connections, security and the future of all low-pay folk, not just the homeless. This must be addressed.

So many boarded up homes from landlords so rich they've forgotten what they own, this cannot continue.
Fair rent tribunals should never have been abandoned, the housing market is now a lie in Oxford. The owners of most of Oxfords letting agents drive around in Ferrari's or oversized 4x4's. They are destroying connections, security and the future of all low-pay folk, not just the homeless. This must be addressed. So many boarded up homes from landlords so rich they've forgotten what they own, this cannot continue. Brickbed

3:11pm Thu 19 Dec 13

Brickbed says...

Brickbed wrote:
Fair rent tribunals should never have been abandoned, the housing market is now a lie in Oxford. The owners of most of Oxfords letting agents drive around in Ferrari's or oversized 4x4's. They are destroying connections, security and the future of all low-pay folk, not just the homeless. This must be addressed.

So many boarded up homes from landlords so rich they've forgotten what they own, this cannot continue.
http://www.huffingto
npost.co.uk/john-wig
ht/austerity-conserv
ative-party_b_445788
8.html
[quote][p][bold]Brickbed[/bold] wrote: Fair rent tribunals should never have been abandoned, the housing market is now a lie in Oxford. The owners of most of Oxfords letting agents drive around in Ferrari's or oversized 4x4's. They are destroying connections, security and the future of all low-pay folk, not just the homeless. This must be addressed. So many boarded up homes from landlords so rich they've forgotten what they own, this cannot continue.[/p][/quote]http://www.huffingto npost.co.uk/john-wig ht/austerity-conserv ative-party_b_445788 8.html Brickbed

6:16pm Fri 20 Dec 13

Sophia says...

As usual the liberal left view is that cuts are unnecessary, just a spiteful whim of the Tories and all we need do is turn the Money Tap back on and everyone can have everything

That is why Labour lost power and may well manage to lose the next Election. People trust them even less than they trust the Tories with the economy, a remarkable achievement

The economy is in bad shape. Tax income reduces when people and companies earn less but government spending on benefits rises. There is a large budget deficit. This has to be reduced. There is no magic solution that avoids cuts. Growth would help but families are burdened by debt and wages are declining so domestic demand is weak, and our export markets are also afflicted by the downturn also we no longer make things to sell abroad

Thus we have to cut state spending. So, where?

This means hard choices. The liberal left do not like making choices but in fact the citizens of Oxford made their choice clear months ago : the one thing that must never be cut is libraries. They have not shown the same zeal for protecting the homeless, who can get stuffed as far as they are concerned. That is why the cut is falling on the most vulnerable.

As for Brickbed's confused post the housing market is operating in Oxford as everywhere to relate demand to supply through price. That is what markets do. There is huge demand to live in Oxford and little spare land for new houses therefore prices are high. Prices will only fall if we allow the green belt to be built over. I for one will fight that to my last breath

Conclusion: a lot of people want to live here and cant afford to. Same is true of Mayfair. Aint life unfair?
As usual the liberal left view is that cuts are unnecessary, just a spiteful whim of the Tories and all we need do is turn the Money Tap back on and everyone can have everything That is why Labour lost power and may well manage to lose the next Election. People trust them even less than they trust the Tories with the economy, a remarkable achievement The economy is in bad shape. Tax income reduces when people and companies earn less but government spending on benefits rises. There is a large budget deficit. This has to be reduced. There is no magic solution that avoids cuts. Growth would help but families are burdened by debt and wages are declining so domestic demand is weak, and our export markets are also afflicted by the downturn also we no longer make things to sell abroad Thus we have to cut state spending. So, where? This means hard choices. The liberal left do not like making choices but in fact the citizens of Oxford made their choice clear months ago : the one thing that must never be cut is libraries. They have not shown the same zeal for protecting the homeless, who can get stuffed as far as they are concerned. That is why the cut is falling on the most vulnerable. As for Brickbed's confused post the housing market is operating in Oxford as everywhere to relate demand to supply through price. That is what markets do. There is huge demand to live in Oxford and little spare land for new houses therefore prices are high. Prices will only fall if we allow the green belt to be built over. I for one will fight that to my last breath Conclusion: a lot of people want to live here and cant afford to. Same is true of Mayfair. Aint life unfair? Sophia

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