The City Conversation is a coalition of people whose mission is “To ensure that nobody has to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford.” The steering group has now agreed a new partnership approach that will improve collaboration in working towards this goal.
In May 2018 a new temporary Project Manager role was created to take this mission forward. Since then, Yvonne Pinner has been employed by Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF) as an independent colleague who can gather the experience and opinions of a wide variety of people involved with tackling homelessness in Oxford. With the support of independent Chair Jane Cranston, she has consulted extensively with homelessness charities and grassroots campaign groups, Oxford City Council, Thames Valley Police, Oxford University, and homeless people themselves.
The City Conversation steering group is made up of a smaller group of these stakeholders, and met this week to hear back from Yvonne and Jane about their observations and recommendations so far. Chair Jane Cranston commented: “Although there are many effective initiatives addressing homelessness in the city, there is also lots of duplication, and little coordinated communication across providers and the public and private sectors. Everyone is pulling in same direction, but at different speeds and with different emphases. This risks being a waste of resources and of goodwill.
“Proper partnerships need time as well as give and take – and that is what we should aim to achieve with the City Conversation.”
The steering group therefore agreed that the conversation should be taken forward with a balance of ‘pause’ and ‘pace’ – stopping to take stock and evaluate, but remaining agile enough to respond to new ideas, and bring in the views of the public and grassroots groups. The aim is to be open-minded, inclusive, and to learn by doing – accepting feedback from people with lived experience of homelessness as a matter of course.
It is hoped that having an independent Chair and Project Manager will help the Steering Group seek out innovative solutions to some of the problems, one of which is the requirement for homeless people to have a ‘local connection’ to the city in order to access statutory services. Addressing this one issue could help around a third of Oxford’s rough sleepers move on from a life on the streets.
Other questions under discussion are how to expand the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) assistance to rough sleepers in the event of freezing temperatures; whether collaboration with colleges could enable interim accommodation to be made available; and having a forum to hear and take on board new ideas from the wider community. Ultimately the City Conversation partners would like to share clear, effective actions that the community can take to help, including the development of a digital platform for people to give money in an effective and supported way.
The City Conversation Steering Group has agreed to take forward an approach organised around “Partnership Pods” – working groups on specific, manageable topics that bring in the expertise of a wider range of people. Each Partnership Pod will be empowered to develop lasting solutions that help people move away from rough sleeping for good.
If you would like to be included in the City Conversation, please contact Yvonne at email@example.com.