The global Covid-19 pandemic has presented a huge challenge to charities. For those of us who work with homeless people, the crisis has put our vulnerable clients at further risk and highlighted (in stark detail) the problems faced by our society’s most disadvantaged people.
At the beginning of the crisis, our immediate concern was for rough sleepers who, for a variety of reason, were placed in an even more precarious position than usual. People who are street homeless are at significant risk of contracting illnesses and generally have limited access to health provision. It was clear that the Covid-19 virus would seriously affect rough sleepers disproportionality and put their lives at risk.
In March 2020, the Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Luke Hall MP announced the ‘Everyone In’ policy which resulted in almost 15,000 rough sleepers being placed in hotels or emergency accommodation to keep them safe. A specific budget was created and the money given to local authorities to help manage the process.
The ‘Everyone In’ policy has been a huge success which has saved hundreds of lives and given safety and security to so many more – highlighting that when the commitment and resources are made available, rough sleeping can be ended for good. The policy has proved that there are solutions to the rough sleeping crisis and that it’s only a matter of political will as to whether we bring this injustice to an end.
We understand that the pandemic created a unique set of circumstances which made the ‘Everyone In’ policy not only necessary, but also viable. Hotel accommodation was available due to the lack of bookings so the available space could be used for such a project.
We’re not advocating for an exact replica of ‘Everyone In’ as this is not a practical and workable solution as the country eases out of lockdown. What we are advocating is for the government to commit to the creation of another policy which has the same universal impact.
In terms of the ‘Everyone In’ policy, the government has shown its ability to confront complex issues and offer demonstrably effective solutions. However, there have been some suggestions in the media that the government is considering withdrawing the ‘Everyone In’ policy and cutting off provision. We believe this would be a lost opportunity to carry on the vital and important work which has been done in the last three months. Now is not the time for taking a step back, but a chance to forge on and make plans for the eradication of rough sleeping in this country.
As part of the homeless charity sector, we are more than happy to work with central and local government to help create a strategy and policy framework which would achieve this goal.
There is now a petition calling on the government to end rough sleeping and homelessness. Find out more HERE.