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Housing

9,000 people could fall into homelessness without national Housing First plan

More than 37,000 people were protected from homelessness during the pandemic but Crisis says funding for Housing First is needed to keep them from returning to the streets

Almost a quarter of rough sleepers and vulnerable people protected from Covid-19 could fall back into homelessness in England without a national commitment to roll-out Housing First across the country.

More than 37,000 people were protected in emergency accommodation through the Everyone In scheme after the pandemic broke out in March 2020 with local authorities, homelessness charities and central government working to find permanent homes ever since.

But Crisis has warned around 9,000 people with serious support needs risk being trapped in a cycle of homelessness without Housing First accommodation, which sees rough sleepers given a place to stay alongside the support they need to keep the tenancy.

The charity said Chancellor Rishi Sunak must fund a national roll-out of Housing First at next month’s autumn spending review – just a day after the Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged £8m to scale up the model in Scotland at the Programme for Government.

“It’s extremely concerning that thousands of people with serious and complicated needs could be at risk of remaining trapped in a cycle of homelessness because we do not have enough Housing First programmes to support them,” said Jon Sparkes, said Crisis chief executive.

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“The past 18 months have shown what can be done when we prioritise tackling one of the greatest social injustices of our time – but we need to go further.

“The job isn’t finished until people are moved into permanent homes and provided with the support they need to keep it.”

The UK government has pledged to end rough sleeping by 2024 and made great strides towards that goal during the pandemic through the Everyone In scheme.

But while Housing First has become the default response to street homelessness in Scotland – there remains no national directive and plan on how to hit the 2024 target.

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In the meantime, Crisis warned a lack of leadership, funding and affordable housing means finding permanent homes for people who have experienced rough sleeping is proving difficult. Meanwhile, people who required intensive support through Housing First to transition into an independent life off the street are struggling to find spaces on projects.

According to Homeless Link, there are 105 Housing First projects in England supporting more than 2,000 people, including the government-backed pilots in Greater Manchester, Liverpool city region and the West Midlands.   

Previously Crisis and Homeless Link has estimated around 16,400 people in England need Housing First to break the cycle of homelessness

“We cannot allow people to drift from night shelter to night shelter as they struggle to deal with the fallout from a lack of ongoing support,” added Sparkes.

“As we rebuild from the pandemic it’s crucial that we seize this moment and invest in the national roll-out of Housing First so that thousands of people can be given the chance of creating a life away from homelessness. That’s why we are relaunching a campaign today to ensure there is a home for all.”  

Last month Shelter warned many of the people protected through the Everyone In scheme remained trapped in temporary or emergency housing. The housing charity told The BBC one in four people housed during the pandemic were now in permanent accommodation.

Meanwhile, representatives from the homelessness sector and politicians have been pushing for a national Housing First programme for some time. Back in July, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ending Homelessness warned failing to back the model would see ministers “turning their backs” on the progress made towards ending rough sleeping in England.

A government spokesperson told The Big Issue: “Tackling rough sleeping and homelessness remains an absolute priority for the government and we are spending an unprecedented £750 million over the next year.

“Over 1,000 people are being supported through our Housing First pilots, and over 800 have already been offered permanent accommodation. An independent evaluation of these pilots is under way – we will consider these findings going forward.”

Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of losing their homes right now. One UK household is being made homeless every three-and-a-half hours.

You can help stop a potential avalanche of homelessness by joining The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelessness campaign. Here’s how:

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