Has COVID-19 helped those who are homeless?

Lockdown is easing and with June already half gone, it’s certainly starting to feel like summer! We’re excited for the ease in restrictions, the chance to be reunited with family and friends, but for some a more serious hurdle to overcome lies ahead. 

At the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown emergency measures were put in place to ensure the safety of the homeless population all throughout the UK. Budgets were extended to £433 million and since then more than 90 percent of people sleeping on the street have been offered a place to stay.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick MP has boldly claimed that the government wants to end rough sleeping for good, and we now have a real opportunity to deliver on this moral mission”.  The question at hand is as lockdown begins to lift what happens to the 90 percent?

The question very much remains, what will happen to those who have been housed during COVID19 and will they end up back on the streets? Many politicians have stated that they won't let this happen but the funding for this will supposedly end at the close of June. We have no idea the trauma that this can cause, being housed for the past few months, settling into a rhythm of things to then be suddenly thrown out and back on the street by the end of the month. 

“It’s so surreal to wake up in a bed every morning, my own room with my own door and bathroom,” Mr. Anderson said. “To tell you the truth, corona has been the best thing that has happened to the homeless. No one has benefited as much as us.

What is the government doing?

Photograph by Finbarr O’Reilly

Crisis director of policy Matt Downie said “Crisis has received “no indications at all” from the government that more money is forthcoming to extend the Everyone In scheme.”

David Renard (LGA housing spokesperson) said: “While the recently announced funding for councils to support rough sleepers is positive, we still need clarity from the government on what additional practical support will be available to councils to help them move people out of hotels and temporary accommodation and into housing.

Spokesperson for London Councils (represents London’s 32 borough councils and the City of London): “It had been assured by government officials that there are no immediate changes to national policy on rough sleeping” and that “no-one receiving this support is being asked to leave their accommodation at this time”.

An apparent new rough sleeping task force is in the works that is said 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.

“Wales' housing minister says she is "absolutely determined" homeless people will not have to go back on to the streets after the coronavirus pandemic. Councils are being asked to find permanent homes for hundreds of rough sleepers who moved into emergency accommodation during lockdown. Rooms in hotels, student accommodation and hostels were brought up at the start of the pandemic to provide 800 places. But Julie James said that was not "OK for the longer term". Another £20m will now go towards building homes and converting empty properties.”

There’s no doubt that lockdown has benefited those who have been rough sleeping over the past few months. The next hurdle that needs to be overcome is in the hands of the government, can they provide accommodation for all rough sleepers across the UK, which we are yet to see if it will be the case. We will make sure to keep you updated as we find out more. Let’s remember all those who are homeless, who right now see the end of lockdown in a very different light than we do, let’s continue to speak up for them in the midst of uncertainty to ensure that no person in the UK wakes up without a roof over their head.

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