Homelessness and the pandemic: what we’re seeing going forward.


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As we head back to a pre-pandemic “normal” what does this mean for the homeless? A lot changed during the pandemic for everyone, including people experiencing homelessness. This blog post will explore the current situation for those who are homeless. But first, let’s start by reminding ourselves of the government’s response to homelessness at the start of lockdown.

What happened to homeless people during lockdown?

At the end of March 2020, the government announced their ‘Everyone In’ scheme and plan to house everyone on the streets in England to protect from the spread of coronavirus. The Everyone In scheme saw homeless people move into empty hotels or emergency accommodation to reduce the spread of the virus. It was considered a success by homeless organisations.

However, funding ended two months later, with the government instead making targeted funding pledges to tackle homelessness instead. But the Everyone In scheme did provide 37,000 rough sleepers with a place to stay during the pandemic.

Going forward: the situation for the homeless.

The Everyone In scheme gave 37,000 rough sleepers a place to stay during the pandemic. What happens to them going forward? And now the government has lifted the covid-19 restrictions in England, what happens to the homeless?

The risk is still high.

Despite restrictions being eased, there is still a high level of risk for many homeless people. Vaccine uptake among the homeless population is low, with one in three receiving both doses of the covid vaccination, compared to 75% of the general population. With winter around the corner, it's uncertain what covid levels we can expect to see and it's likely that unvaccinated groups will remain vulnerable.

Less people have moved into permanent accommodation.

Shelter recently reported that fewer than one in four homeless people housed by the government's Everyone In scheme have moved into permanent accommodation. That means, over three-quarters of the people housed under the “Everyone In” scheme, over 29,000 people, are not living in settled accommodation (somewhere they could stay for at least six months). Worryingly, 23% are no longer being accommodated, suggesting they have returned to the streets or are sofa surfing.

Those with no recourse to public funds remain vulnerable.

We support many clients who are European Economic Area nationals and have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). This makes them unable to receive housing support or benefits. They can only access support if they receive settled status. The deadline to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme has now passed. With the government working through a huge number of applications, many  face long waits to find out if they have settled status. For those waiting, they are unable to receive benefits or housing support, and often their only option is to sleep rough.

The Everyone In scheme at the start of the pandemic housed many people who were homeless and rough sleeping. Now, as restrictions are lifted, we can’t forget those experiencing homelessness. Vaccine uptake among the homeless population is low and many remain at risk. Over three quarters of people housed at the start of the pandemic are not living in settled accommodation. And those with no recourse to public funds remain in a vulnerable position. We must not let homelessness slip back to pre- pandemic levels.

We're working hard to provide support to people experiencing homelessness in West Yorkshire. This winter, we’re expecting to see an increase in the number of people needing our support. We can't do this without your help - please support us today.

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