HOMELESSNESS charities are hoping a record-breaking Big Sleepout will raise more than £30,000 to help tackle the problem of rough sleeping in Oxford.

Last year's event at the Hill End Centre raised £24,000 and this year organisers Aspire Oxford and Oxford Homeless Pathways are hoping fundraisers will smash that total.

This year's event at the centre in Eynsham Road, Farmoor, will take place on Saturday, October 7.

The organisations are calling on people to give up their beds for the night and bring a sleeping bag to Hill End to tackle the growing homelessness crisis.

Aspire Oxford said 186 people were seen sleeping on the streets of Oxford between October and December last year, with 72 people sleeping rough for the first time.

The problem of rough sleeping has got worse after funding cuts led to the closure of homeless shelter Lucy Faithfull House in Speedwell Street.

Aspire Oxford spokeswoman Helen Mariner said: "We would love it if more than 100 people came along to the sleepout this year - we are expecting a record number and are aiming to raise more than £30,000."

The city council has outlined a package of measures to help to help tackle the problem, including an initiative to keep open hostel Simon House, which has 52 beds, and seven city centre churches will open their doors to the homeless between January and March.

Simon House in Paradise Street was set to be decommissioned in March next year but the city council is aiming to provide £200,000 to keep up to 25 beds open in partnership with housing provider A2Dominion.

Mackenzie Aspell, community fundraiser at Oxford Homeless Pathways, said: "Oxford’s homelessness crisis is getting worse and we urgently need local people to stand together in support of our community’s most vulnerable people.

"We’d urge anyone who wants to show their support for homeless people to sign up for this unique event.

"You can sign up with friends, family, work colleagues or on your own."

All funds raised will be split between Oxford Homeless Pathways and Aspire Oxford to provide immediate and long-term support to help people gain secure housing, skills, work experience and employment.

Aspire Oxford chief executive officer Paul Roberts said: "While this event will be held in the safe environment of Hill End Outdoor Centre for one night only, hundreds of local people have nowhere safe to go – this is their reality, night after night.

"The money raised on the night will provide local people with support to find safe housing, work experience and employment so that they can leave homelessness behind them."

Everyone who takes part is asked to raise a minimum of £100 in sponsorship.

There will be live music, speakers, refreshments from Abundance Oxford and Disco Soup, interactive stalls and a film showing.

To find out more and register for the event call 01865 204 450 or visit active.com/oxford-oxfordshire/oxford-big-sleepout-2017

If you see someone who is sleeping rough, please report it to the Outreach Team and their staff will help.

Referrals can be made either via StreetLink 0300 500 0914 or directly to outreach 01865 304 611 outreach.oxford@MUNGOS.ORG