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14 May, 2024

Getting muddy for money: Q&A with Homeless Oxfordshire’s Simon Hughes on marking 10 years at the charity

Simon Hughes is a housing and resettlement worker for Homeless Oxfordshire and, to mark 10 years working for the charity, decided to participate in muddy and physically demanding challenges to raise awareness and money for homelessness. Here’s how he got on.

What inspired you to take on the Wolf Run to raise funds for Homeless Oxfordshire?

This year marks ten years since I started working with Homeless Oxfordshire and I wanted to find a way to commemorate that. I got into running in 2023 and challenged myself to complete a half marathon as well as the Wolf Run.

What is the Wolf Run?

The Wolf Run involves running 10 km through thirty obstacles including rivers, mud, tyres and fences. The appeal of the Wolf Run was that I felt there was a correlation between the overcoming physical hurdles throughout the run, and the obstacles that are faced by people experiencing homelessness and the support that we offer residents

Where did you start your journey at Homeless Oxfordshire?

My first role was as a project worker based at O’Hanlon House (OHH) in Central Oxford. The services on offer there have changed slightly since I started. Back then over fifty people would sleep there each night, and more would come to use services such as the washing machines, showers, meals, and access the support we provided. The role of project worker was a varied, exciting one, blending client support, cleaning, practical help in OHH, and keeping the clients safe.

It sounds like you and the residents got involved in a wide range of activities. Did you have a personal favourite?

My favourite activity was dog walking – we’d get an hour’s bus to the local dog sanctuary and then walk a dog together. It provided such a valuable opportunity for real conversation and connection in a different environment away from the office.

Your current role is based in a community project. Tell us a little more about these projects.

I left OHH in 2018, moving out to work in Reconnect, one of our community projects. HOx has many different community projects which are usually in shared housing (often with self-contained rooms) across the county. The community projects usually have a specialism to them so that we can meet residents’ individual support needs. HOx’s community projects include: Sapling, Project 41, Vineyard (in Abingdon), Housing First, the Women’s Project, The Pre-Recovery Project, Step-up and Step-Down Housing, and we have some projects in Cherwell.

Which project are you currently working with and what does your role involve?

In 2019 I started working with Sapling. Sapling is part of community housing for residents who have come from rehab for substance use and are now totally abstinent from substances (which we test for as it is a substance-free house and therapeutic community).

Group work is integrated into our program at Sapling, running groups that psycho-educate our residents on recovery and preparation for move-on. We also run process groups for residents to reflect on what is happening in their lives, share difficulties with their peers, and process feelings that can be intense and contribute towards lapses. The Sapling Project has therapeutic duties like cleaning built into the program, and an expectation that residents are busy outside of groups – volunteering and training in preparation for moving on to their own social housing. We support and fund residents’ move-on, run weekly cooking classes, have regular guest speakers at the project, and are planning a day trip this quarter to the beach or to watch Oxford United play.

How did the Wolf Run go?

I ran with my sister, her boyfriend and their friend and we ran as a real pack, taking about 1h45 in total.

There was lots of swimming in rivers, or trying to climb muddy slopes. I didn’t make the monkey bars (I just had no grip) or one of the wall climbs (my arms were just dead after a 5m swim in a river). We were very cold afterwards but it was great fun.

One of my favourite moments was trying to help my sister up a muddy slope out of a river. She eventually grabbed my hand, but rather than pulling her up I ended up falling back in and we both needed help to get out.

I’m delighted that I ended up raising £195 for Homeless Oxfordshire.

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