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Univ housing the homeless

I write to you now from a locked down Univ, something that I, with my few years’ service and others with many decades of service, never contemplated we would see. We had expected the Quads to be buzzing with life now that spring is here; Easter schools should be filling our rooms as we anticipate the return of our own students and another busy Trinity Term. That is now not to be, and the Quads are as quiet as they have ever been. The main site is suitably put to bed and I am satisfied that it is safely waiting until we return. The College has made all and every effort it can to ensure the safety of our students, our staff and this wonderful place that we all love as our second home.

With the College community safe, our thoughts turn to what we can and should do in support of the Government in these times, in support of the town and the society that has aided us through generations.

In mid-March, Oxford City Council approached the College for its help in getting people off the streets of Oxford as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to gather pace. The College has some years of history now of being engaged with the city council and with third sector organisations in developing a suite of achievable and lasting solutions to prevent anyone having to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford. There are a good many initiatives with which we are involved as a member of the Steering Committee of the Oxford Homeless Movement, some of which could have real resonance with both the Central and Collegiate University for our further support to the wider Oxford community.

I hope to write to you further in the months ahead about what some of these initiatives might look like and how Univ can consider its contribution. One size planning will certainly not fit all, and it is through flexibility of approach that we stand the best chance of making a real difference on our streets.

Yet for now, what we can do is get people off the streets; literally. We recognise the complex needs that people coming out of rough sleeping often have. We are indebted to our partners Aspire and St Mungo’s for their support to us as we offer accommodation to this complicated cohort of people in these even more tricky times.

We have handed over one of our properties, comprising 12 bedspaces, to the city council, for it to be run by St Mungo’s. The building is offered free of charge and on a rolling licence so that we can all be confident that for as long as we are needed, we can be there for our wider community too. I’m sure that you will agree that this is the right thing for us to do; this College is outstanding in so many ways, but I am particularly proud that we are involved in this.

Please take a moment to look at what these organisations are achieving in our town: Aspire – St Mungo’s – Oxford Homeless Movement

Our warmest wishes to you and your families at this difficult time; stay safe until we meet again.

Angela Unsworth, Domestic Bursar

Published: 15 April 2020

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