In 2019, the Conservative Party Manifesto pledged to put a stop to ‘the blight of rough sleeping by the end of the next Parliament’ thereby meaning the government have approximately two years until their 2024 deadline – but how realistic is this?
At the start of the pandemic, immediate action to support the homeless was crucial to protect the health of these individuals and to help prevent the spread of covid-19. As such, the ‘Everyone In’ initiative was launched, a scheme whereby the government asked local authorities to provide accommodation to those who were homeless, even if they would not usually be entitled to assistance. In order to provide, authorities booked hotels, B&Bs, student accommodation and other holiday rentals. Overall the approach has been praised as a way of saving lives and protecting the homeless during the pandemic.
During this early period of the pandemic, statistics have shown that the ‘number of people living on the streets fell in England […] with an estimated 2,688 people sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2020, down 37 per cent on the 4,266 recording in 2019.’ Though these figures show that the vow to bring ‘Everyone In’ was not met, they do demonstrate a decrease in homelessness and the effectiveness of the scheme. In order to continue on this trajectory, organisations and stakeholders urge the government to continue to address ‘the ongoing status of the 'Everyone In scheme’, ‘long-term and sustainable homelessness funding’ and ‘affordable move-on accommodation for rough sleepers.’
As covid surges once more and whispers of another lockdown are shared, it has not been confirmed to what extent the government will support another Everyone In scheme. This lack of support subsequently risks losing what was achieved when the motivation was present last year. Now, English citizens have been asked to work from home again, but with the withdrawal of the furlough scheme and the universal credit increase, people are at risk of losing their homes.
While local emergency accommodation was a viable solution during the first lockdown, more long-term and sustainable routes need to be taken, with or without covid in the picture, to prevent and mitigate homelessness by 2024. Fortunately, charities such as Help Bristol’s Homeless Project, Social Bite Village and Embassy are already paving the way to provide homeless people safe and supportive homes. These organisations provide temporary accommodation solutions, allowing individuals the space to get on their feet while they search for more permanent housing and employment.
In the long term, the accommodation these charities offer is a more sustainable option than hotels and student halls and with the government’s pledge from December 2020 to spend a further £310 million to tackle homelessness, perhaps investments into such schemes could be a fruitful method to support vulnerable people.
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