Crisis has upped calls for the Government to set out their plans for a “safe and settled home for all” as they reveal that frontline services are seeing a rise in homelessness thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Everybody In scheme offered accommodation to 90 per cent of the rough sleepers known to services, acting swiftly to temporarily house 14,610 people in hotels and going some way towards ending rough sleeping in the short-term.
But the homelessness charity’s survey of 150 charities and organisations who have been supporting people experiencing homelessness has found that more than half of frontline services are dealing with rising numbers.
They also found that 60 per cent of services have also seen more people lose their job seeking support, as people struggle to keep their head above water. Elsewhere, 60 per cent of those surveyed saying they had seen a rise in people sofa surfing needing help.
As a society we must now do everything we can to make sure that people hit the hardest during this period and beyond aren’t pushed further to the brink
And the physical and mental toll has been felt too with a dramatic rise in people seeking help for basic needs such as food (86 per cent), their finances (76 per cent) and feelings of loneliness and isolation (96 per cent).
This warning – like the District Councils’ Network’s suggestion that 500,000 people could be facing homelessness due to the economic devastation of the virus – comes as we reach a crossroads in the campaign to end rough sleeping.
According to Crisis’ Matt Downie, contracts with hotels housing rough sleepers run out at the end of June and there is yet to be funding specified to extend their stay or to help local authorities find accommodation.
The Government has tasked Dame Louise Casey’s Rough Sleeping Taskforce with working hand-in-hand alongside local authorities to find safe long-term homes with accelerated funding of £433 million to find 6,000 homes for people, including 3,300 over the next 12 months.
Crisis wants the Westminster Government to commit to a plan that will enable everyone across Great Britain to have the security of a safe and settled home.
The alternative is a return to the streets for people housed in hotels, or more people forced to sleep rough or face lengthy stays in temporary accommodation once the eviction ban ends.
Ellesse, 22, from Sheffield, is racking up rent arrears during the Covid-19 lockdown. She was working in a shoe kiosk up until two months ago when the pandemic forced the shop to close and she was let go, leaving her with little to live on. With help from Crisis she was able to negotiate a delay in paying her rent, but the arrears will need to be paid back in the future.
She said: “I’d begun to panic that we might lose our jobs then our boss called and said she couldn’t afford to keep us on.
“I applied for Universal Credit but because of when I lost my job, I won’t receive any housing benefit until next month meaning I’ve not been able to pay my rent. My final wage was nowhere near enough to cover two months’ worth of bills and food, so Crisis helped me with food vouchers – I don’t know what I would have done without them.
“I really want to get back to work but I’m worried as barely any businesses are hiring so it’s hard to predict what the future will hold, but for now I’m just trying to stay positive.”
Jon Sparkes, Crisis chief executive, said: “The pandemic has made it abundantly clear just how important it is that everyone has somewhere safe to call home. We’ve made tremendous strides in the response to this public health emergency but as our research shows we still have some way to go before the job is done.
“At this very minute tens of thousands of people across Great Britain are struggling against a rising tide of job insecurity and high rents, all of which threaten to push them into homelessness. We’re also seeing people who are still trapped on our streets because they aren’t eligible for help. This isn’t right especially when, given the progress we’ve made so far, we know that ending homelessness is within our grasp.
“As a society we must now do everything we can to make sure that people hit the hardest during this period and beyond aren’t pushed further to the brink.”
The pandemic has made it abundantly clear just how important it is that everyone has somewhere safe to call home
Sparkes’ calls are echoed by Unite union, who warn that thousands could be on the street by the end of June.
Unite housing workers branch secretary Jack Jeffery said: “There is growing anxiety amongst the people we have found beds for in the crisis – and a sense of hopelessness among people on the street: the fear is that the government will simply dump people onto the street instead of helping them to find affordable secure homes.
“We need an assurance of ongoing funding now, stable funding and a reversal of cuts, plus a commitment to building secure and truly affordable social rent homes.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Any suggestion we are rowing back on our commitment to support rough sleepers is untrue and we are clear that councils must continue to provide safe accommodation.
“Our new rough sleeping taskforce will ensure as many people as possible who have been brought in off the streets in this pandemic do not return. We have accelerated plans for new services – backed by £433 million – which will ensure 6,000 new housing units will be put into the system, with 3,300 available in the next 12 months.”