As the coronavirus lockdown loosened its grip back in July, a very real and new fear emerged – financial collapse. The World Bank predicted the worst global recession since the end of World War Two.
Stark warnings were issued around homelessness in Britain. The District Councils’ Network, representing 187 authorities across England, warned that job losses could cause 400,000 households to become homeless. To date, 144,750 jobs have been lost as a result of Covid.
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Hundreds of thousands are at risk of eviction or becoming homeless, many in lower-paid and precarious jobs often hailed as heroes in the darkest lockdown days.
If they fall, people will get caught in a poverty trap that will take years to break. Homelessness will be damaging for them and their families, seriously rupturing the future chances for their children.
At The Big Issue, we wanted to do something about this. Since we were established in 1991 we have worked for those on the margins of society to offer them a hand up, not a handout.
The shock of coronavirus has called for a radical rethink. We need your ideas, your support and your courage to make a difference with the Ride Out recession Alliance.
What is the Ride Out Recession Alliance?
We know better than most how utterly destructive homelessness can be. How it can wring everything from people and set them in a financial, mental and emotional hole that may never be properly exited. So we are committed to stopping people falling in. The crisis of Covid has helped us refocus and increase our reach.
As well as our vendors, we are going to be here for our readers, and anybody else previously doing fine but now at risk. We want to make sure that the pandemic doesn’t result in a new generation lost to homelessness. We also realised we couldn’t do this alone.
Experience has taught us that there are many people and organisations who have great ideas and expertise that could help.
So we established the Ride Out Recession Alliance – RORA. The goal is straightforward and focused:
Keep people in their homes
Keep people in employment and help build job creation schemes
With The Big Issue as the platform and lead facilitator we have called on organisations and individuals to join the alliance. It needs ideas and tangible plans to help hundreds of thousands avoid homelessness.
The goal is straightforward, but the means are not. We understand the costs and challenges. What we are seeking is on a massive scale. And, there are different policies governing Scotland, Wales and England.
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Finding the vast sums needed at a time when government spending is already beyond any normal comprehension, when local authorities seek every lever they can to raise funds, is a challenge that none of us have tried to tackle before.
But the cost of supporting people as they fall into homelessness, and the ongoing associated damage to them and to local economies, will dwarf any upfront payments now.
Who is in the Ride Out Recession Alliance?
We have already been joined by organisations including Shelter, Centrepoint, Generation Rent, National Skills Agency, Nationwide, Unilever, Child Poverty Action Group and the Youth Hostels Association.
It is non-partisan and support has come from across the political spectrum. Veteran Tory MP Andrea Leadsom raised what we are doing in a Commons debate. Former PM Gordon Brown has written in support of RORA.
It goes beyond organisations and politicians. We know that Big Issue readers frequently have ideas that will help. You might be a small business owner who is implementing a new scheme. You might be part of a local community group that has come up with a great way forward. Or you may be an individual who has a bright and brilliant idea. We want to hear from you.
RORA needs to be made of up all who are committed to the same goals.
So far we have worked to extend rights to those facing eviction because they couldn’t pay rent due to Covid.
We have agitated for government intervention to meet rent payments to stop eviction being necessary in the first place.
We have also looked at how we can help with job searches and retraining for people as posts are lost. As the tier system bites and uncertainty takes over again, we need to redouble efforts to find a way out.
We need you. We need you to be part of the possible.
“We want to end homelessness for good,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate. “So we’re pleased to be working with The Big Issue to stop people losing their homes due to coronavirus now, and to build the case for the next generation of social housing.
“Decades of failure to build the social homes we need has led to increases in homelessness and too many people living in unsafe accommodation. This includes many heroes of the pandemic, who worked tirelessly to keep this country going.
“But now we have an opportunity for change. We must seize it – and build the quality homes needed for everyone to be safe and secure.”
The focus now must be on jobs. How do we get a workforce at risk into retraining for the future? Upskilling will be of use only if the jobs are there.
If you have ideas which can help, be they big or small, policy or personal, micro or macro, we want to hear them.
If you work for an organisation that can get involved and play an active role, we want to hear from you.
We need to redouble efforts to find a way out. We need you. We need you to be part of the possible.