National Homelessness News
Rough sleeping rose in the UK during lockdown despite government scheme.
The Guardian newspaper reveals that although the government claimed that it had almost eradicated rough sleeping at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis through its £3.2 million ‘Everyone In’ scheme, reports of rough sleeping rose in the UK during that period.
New figures from the homelessness charity Streetline show the picture is a complex one with an increase in alerts by members of the public about rough sleepers. Charities believe that although the government’s scheme housed many, new people were forced onto the streets after they lost their jobs due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Ban on evictions due to Covid extended until September
In its latest U-turn during the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has extended its ban on evictions by another month, warning that it had to take the action to prevent a “wave of homelessness”. Some, including a Senior Tory politician have warned the extension does not go far enough.
Evictions in England were due to restart at the end of August. At least 227 thousand private renters are believed to have fallen into arrears and 174 thousand threatened with eviction by their landlord or agent.
Manchester charity warns of potential ‘homelessness avalanche’
Gary Dunstan, founder of the Manchester-based charity the Street Support Network has warned that homelessness could spiral when the furlough scheme and a ban on evictions come to an end. He told the Manchester Evening News: “Loads of people not paying rent and not paying bills, but how long can that go on? There’s an even bigger demand for rental properties and landlords will say okay, if you can’t pay somebody else will.”
One in five private renting families fear they could become ‘Covid homeless’
Nearly one in five private renting parents are concerned their families will become homeless as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, according to YouGov research carried out for the homeless charity Shelter. Parents living in privately rented homes are almost twice as likely to be worried about homelessness than parents living in secure social homes (9%). Shelter’s research suggests this fear of homelessness may not be unfounded, with 550,000 private renting parents taking on debt to help pay their rent since lockdown.
Councils are flouting the law by ‘secretly’ relocating homeless people to other boroughs.
An investigation by ITV has uncovered clear evidence that a number of English councils are failing to provide housing for some homeless people within their borough. Where it is deemed unavoidable and a homeless person is moved to a new area, local authorities are legally supposed to notify the other council so that social, medical and educational support can be put in place. According to ITV’s research, more than 60 councils are failing to do this.
Coronavirus crisis having catastrophic effect on nutrition for UK’s poorest.
A report by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has led to large numbers of people skipping meals and going hungry, compromising their nutritional health. One in ten people say they have been forced to use food banks.
The snapshot study presents a vivid picture of how people living in poverty have struggled to feed themselves adequately during lockdown.
Shelter says extension of the eviction ban is ‘vital stay of execution’
The homeless charity Shelter has responded positively to the announcement by Housing Minister Robert Jenrick that evictions will continue to be banned until August, but highlights that it is ‘only a stop-gap’
Chief Executive of Shelter, Polly Neate said: “The ban hasn’t stopped people who’ve lost their jobs during this pandemic from racking up rent arrears. Even if they have a plan to pay them back, these debts will throw struggling renters straight back into the firing line of an automatic eviction as soon as the ban does lift.
Centrepoint calls on the government to raise the Universal Credit standard allowance for under-25’s who live independently.
Currently, due to their age, under-25’s receive a lower rate of Universal Credit and Local Housing Allowance than others even if they are living independently and have the similar outgoings. As the charity Centrepoint explains, this young age group is the most likely to face job losses during the Covid-19 crisis. It says a reduced level of Universal Credit can spell disaster for young people living, particularly those who are unable to return to the family home.
The Covid-19 crisis has emptied the streets of rough sleepers , but what happens next ?
For all its horrors there has been one positive come from the Covid-19 crisis. It has forced the government to take action on street homelessness. As the Guardian newspaper reports, it is now crucial for the government to lock in the gains made and honour its long term commitment to end rough sleeping.
Guardian journalists Simon Hattenstone and Danny Lavelle won the Features Journalism award for The Empty Doorway at the British Journalism Awards. In the article – Investigating Britain’s homelessness crisis, they explain why their work has felt so meaningful, and about the heartening response from readers.