Councillors show support for people experiencing homelessness with sleep out under the stars

Leaders in business, education and local government are coming together for a night under the stars, taking part in a sleepout on the streets of Oxford to raise vital funds for local homeless organisations.

CEO Sleepout is a national initiative which has so far raised £3 million for frontline homeless charities by inviting chief executive officers (CEOs), company owners and managers to gain sponsorship to sleep outside. This is the first time the event has come to Oxford. Among the participants are Oxfordshire County Councillor Tim Bearder, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, and Councillor Mark Lygo, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Equalities.  

Councillor Tim Bearder said: “Homelessness could happen to any of us. It’s not necessarily the result of poor choices or behaviour, it can be pure bad luck or circumstances totally outside someone’s control. However it happens, society should never accept that people have no choice but to sleep in the cold and rain on our streets. As cabinet member for adult social care, I want to show my support for the excellent organisations operating in Oxfordshire, helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Oxfordshire County Council is part of the Oxfordshire Homeless Alliance, commissioning partners to improve homeless services by taking a collaborative approach to support those experiencing and at risk of homelessness. The partnership highlights the complex nature of homelessness, identifying the many contributing factors and offering tailored support to help each individual.

Cllr Bearder said: “The life expectancy of men living on the street is 46 years old. For women it’s even younger at 42 years old. That’s younger than the life expectancy in some of the world’s most underdeveloped countries and it’s happening here on the streets of Oxfordshire. That has got to change.”

Council support services work closely with homeless providers to meet the varied and complex needs of their clients, including a specific focus on support for drug and alcohol misuse, provided by Turning Point.  

Councillor Mark Lygo, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Equalities, said: “Homelessness isn’t just about housing. We know that one in four rough sleepers will have experienced childhood trauma which can result in serious mental health challenges. Without the right support, you can see why people turn to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain.

“I hope by taking part in the CEO sleepout together, Tim and I can show the importance we place on the combined work of homeless organisations in the county to help every vulnerable adult get the support they need.

“Our strategic priorities highlight our commitment to supporting homeless adults in Oxfordshire. By tackling inequalities, prioritising the health and wellbeing of residents and supporting the social care system, we hope to create a fairer and healthier county for everyone."

The sleepout is happening tonight (Monday 17 October) at Christ Church Meadow.

The Oxfordshire Homeless Movement partnership is benefitting from the funds raised and their Project Director, Yvonne Pinner, is also taking part. Yvonne said: “We are incredibly grateful to be the recipient of the funds from the CEO Sleepout in Oxford and the awareness that this will also create for the work that we do.

“Oxfordshire Homeless Movement is a partnership of the many organisations working to help those experiencing homelessness in Oxfordshire and to ensure that nobody has to sleep rough on our streets. All the donations received will go directly towards helping those experiencing homelessness across Oxfordshire.

“For local leaders to come together and take action to help people experiencing homelessness is just brilliant – thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.”

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