Without the right initiatives put in place, a large number of the homeless people currently benefiting from Government-funded temporary accommodation across the UK risk ending up without a place to stay this summer. This was the message of Crisis, the UK’s biggest charity focused on ending homelessness, presented at a digital event organised by Big Tent Ideas on Thursday evening.
“Right now, we’re at a crossroads and have important decisions to make as a society,” said Hannah Gousy, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Crisis.
“Do we seize on the important work that has been done by councils and the Government? Or do we let homeless people back out on the streets?”
At the start of the pandemic, the UK Government took drastic measures in order to get Britain’s homeless off the streets and into secure lodging where they could isolate themselves and avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19. This has included getting thousands of them lodged in hotels across the country, where they’ve been provided with meals and a wide range of social support. “There is no question in that this has saved lives,” Hannah Gousy continued, “it’s provided us with an important springboard to be able to help people into proper homes.”
As the country starts easing out of lockdown, it is unclear what the Government’s plans are in regards to helping all the homeless people it is currently supporting into permanent accommodation. With many contracts coming to an end in the coming weeks, Crisis is calling it a “cliff edge.”
Charlie Atkinson, who is working at one of the hotels that have been turned into a shelter, shared her experience about the work that’s been carried out over the past months.
“I’ve never seen a team work so hard to make sure people don’t go back into homelessness. There is a sense of hope as people feel listened to.”
She also explained how people are becoming increasingly worried about what services will still be in place for those experiencing homelessness going forward, after the current programme ends.
“What people I work in hotels with want is some indication that there is a future. That there will be a job market, that there will be counselling, that they’re not dropped off.”
Francesca, who remained anonymous, talked about her experience of homelessness. “I think very often there is a certain perception of a person in homelessness, ” she said.
“It can happen to anybody.”
Finally, Ruth Jacobs, Senior Policy Officer at Crisis, outlined what the charity is calling for the Government to do to capitalise on the current engagement it is having with the UK’s homeless, in a bid to end the concept completely. “Ending homelessness is possible,” she said.
“We really need to act now. There is a risk that the progress made will be lost” she said, arguing that there is a need for immediate action to make sure everyone who has anywhere safe to stay get emergency accommodation for the next year. Helping those already homeless is also not enough to eradicate the issue, which is why Crisis is also calling for the Government to start building more social housing and making sure homeless individuals can access it and move in permanently.