‘Everyone In’ Again In Halton

All homeless people in Halton will continue to receive temporary accommodation after the council agreed to maintain its “everyone in” policy, reports the Liverpool Echo.

The policy, introduced by the government in response to Covid-19, means everyone seeking help from council homelessness services should be accommodated regardless of whether they met the normal eligibility criteria. But while the government has now started to encourage a return to normal service, Halton and other Liverpool City Region councils have decided to maintain the policy due to the impact of Tier 3 and the national lockdown.

A report presented to the council’s executive board on Thursday said returning to normal would be “inappropriate”. The report said: “Across the country, some 15,000 homeless people were found at least temporary accommodation during the last lockdown; a recent article in The Lancet found that over 260 lives were saved as a result. As winter approaches, it seems that the coronavirus will become more widespread, and it is those who are homeless, or facing potential homelessness, who will be amongst the most vulnerable to the illness.”

In Halton, 128 people had been accommodated under the scheme by October 19, with the council meeting the demand by bringing mothballed units at Grangeway Court back into use, starting a new scheme at Columba Court in Widnes. Around 14 people are also being accommodated in hotels at any one time. The introduction of Tier 3 restrictions on October 14 further increased demand for places due to “sofa surfers” no longer being allowed to stay with others.

On Thursday, the council’s executive board agreed to continue to “everyone in” policy until at least the end of the year, at a cost of around £150,000. The council’s report acknowledged that this policy was likely to cause “a considerable financial shortfall”, but added that this needed to be balanced against the impact of changing the policy.

The report said: “There are real risks that more people could become homeless and potentially may have to become rough sleepers; in itself this increases the risks to their health and the potential for them to become infected with Covid-19. The provision of a managed approach to this unique situation can potentially mitigate some of these health risks and reduce the potential for additional coronavirus infection in the borough.”

Chancellor Urged To Invest To End Homelessness

With just days to go until he announces his Spending Review, Homeless Link wrote to the Chancellor to draw his attention to interventions they believe are crucial to ensure that the Prime Minister’s ambition to eliminating rough sleeping and homelessness is realised.

Homeless Link wrote: “We all know this has been a tumultuous year. Yet there can be no doubt that Government’s swift action and determination in the form of the Everyone In directive and an investment of an additional £700m, saved hundreds of lives. Like the Prime Minister, we want to keep our eyes on the prize of eliminating rough sleeping and homelessness for good. That is why we have asked that this week’s Spending Review is used to build upon recent emergency investment in homelessness and rough sleeping, throughout 2021/22. Now we have all seen what can be done, it would be an absolute tragedy to let this opportunity slip away.

However, there are already signs that the gains made from this spring’s herculean effort might indeed be slipping away. Members are already telling us that many of the growing numbers of people sleeping rough are new to the street. The latest statistics tell the same story, with rough sleeping in London higher than this time in 2019 and those aged under 25 now making up more than a tenth (11%) of the capital’s rough sleepers. In the context of deeply concerning projections of local authority shortfalls and pre-pandemic research showing that our sector was already facing an annual shortfall of £1bn, our letter tells the Chancellor that if the sector is to maintain the strength and depth necessary to eliminate rough sleeping and homelessness, our members need to be funded adequately and sustainably.

Already we are seeing people being pushed into rent arrears and so into greater risk of homelessness. This will only be compounded by a rise in unemployment set to be the sharpest for at least 50 years. So we have also called on the Chancellor to make changes to welfare provision: we asked that Government remove the cap in areas of high affordability pressure areas immediately and commit to adjusting the benefit cap levels such that they align with the Minimum Income Standard; for LHA to be kept at least the 30th percentile rate; for the £20/week uplift to UC to be kept and for this uplift to be extended to legacy benefits; and for the extension to the Shared Accommodation Rate exemptions to be brought forward.

Members will be aware that move-on accommodation is critical to the effective functioning of the homelessness sector and for the people we work with to truly recover from homelessness. To this end, we have also called on the Chancellor heed Parliament’s own Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee and commit to funding 90,000 new social homes – at social rents – in England each year, to 2023. In a week’s time – a long time in politics at the best of times – we shall see whether Government is prepared to do what needs to be done and fully fund their mission to eliminate rough sleeping and homelessness for good.”

Homeless Pupils “Arrive At School Hungry, Tired And In Dirty Clothing”

More than half of teachers in Britain have worked with children who were, or became, homeless and had to live in temporary housing in the past three years, a new survey has found.

The research, conducted by homeless charity Shelter, found that 56 per cent of teachers had taught children whose academic performance and general wellbeing were affected by their living situation, reports The Independent. Children who are homeless, or living in bad housing, arrive at school hungry, tired and in dirty clothing, while others miss class altogether, according to the findings. The report also warned that the situation was likely to worsen for tens of thousands of children as a result of the coronavirus crisis, which the report had not been able to fully consider because of data being collected before the UK’s first lockdown.

In the survey of 1,507 teachers, carried out in February and March across the UK, 94 per cent of staff who had worked with these children reported that arriving to class tired was a pressing issue. The poll also showed that 87 per cent of teachers had seen pupils arriving to class hungry, and about nine in 10 said that pupils experiencing bad housing or homelessness often missed classes or whole days of school.

One teacher, who remained anonymous in the report, saw how exhausted a young pupil became when she was moved to emergency homeless accommodation in a different local council area, meaning that she had to leave home at 6am to get to school on time. “The family of four are living in one room at a B&B. Her attendance has dropped severely, she has become ill and she is always tired,” the teacher said.

Dani Worthington, a headteacher in Batley, West Yorkshire, told the PA news agency: “Homeless children are at a disadvantage before the school day has even started. In my 15 years of teaching, I have seen the devastating knock-on effect of homelessness on education many times. Children who did well when they lived in a stable home became withdrawn and unable to follow their lessons. When families don’t have access to the basics like a washing machine, we end up washing their uniforms at school.”

In a similar report that Shelter carried out in 2017, one teacher said that “not having a permanent home has a massive impact on children’s ability to participate in school successfully in terms of lessons … in terms of building their friendships”. It can hold them back as they feel different to everybody,” the teacher added. That report also detailed the impact educators felt from working with children experiencing such hardships. “Teachers and education professionals described how working with children experiencing homelessness led them to feel emotionally and physically exhausted,” it found, adding: “They felt frustrated and, at times, despondent.”

It is thought the issue will worsen in 2020 as a result of the pandemic; to explore the potential effect on children experiencing homelessness while at school, Shelter carried out further research. In a survey of 1,072 teachers in October this year, 73 per cent said homeless children or children living in bad housing had had their education more negatively affected than their peers in suitable housing.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Without a safe and secure home, a child’s life chances can be deeply disrupted. This is a national scandal – and without action, the extra harm being done to homeless children as a result of the pandemic may never be undone. Homeless children must not be the invisible victims of this crisis.”

Fears Of A Rise In Homelessness During A Second Lockdown

More than a thousand families in Merseyside became homeless during the first lock-down – and campaigners warn many more could find themselves in this situation in the coming months.

The latest official figures from the government have revealed that 1,071 households in our area were found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness between April and June, reports the Liverpool Echo. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they were sleeping rough on the street – just that they had no stable accommodation and were forced to seek assistance from their council. This most commonly happens because of eviction due to rent arrears, but can also be the result of relationship breakdown between partners, domestic abuse, or other violence or harassment.

The number is not as high as it might have been, thanks to Government measures such as the six-month ban on evictions. It had dropped from 1,431 Merseyside households who were found to be homeless between January and March, and was down from 1,440 between April and June last year. However, campaigners and homelessness charities say the number will likely rise as the economic effects of the pandemic are fully felt – particularly during the second lockdown. It is unclear whether or not the evictions ban will be reinstated at this time.

Often, people who experience homelessness problems suffer food poverty issues and Merseyside foodbanks are anticipating an increase in people seeking help because of homelessness concerns. Simon Huthwaite, operations manager for St Andrew’s Community Network in Clubmoor in Liverpool – which runs North Liverpool Foodbank – said: “Under COVID-19 we have seen a new type of person trying to access the foodbank. What we are seeing is more families and more children being fed through the foodbank network. And we are seeing a change in the reasons for people using foodbanks. So if you went back to a year ago, the top two reasons why people need a foodbank are benefit-related.”

“What we’ve seen this year is that the number one reason for referral has changed. While benefit sanctions are up there, the vast majority of vouchers that are issued are because of low income, so you can postulate from that data that a lot of families are going to be struggling to pay for household bills and rent. So it’s no surprise to me that over 1,000 families have been made homeless over this period. St Andrew’s gives debt advice and we support about 900 people a year with this. And this figure will include people for whom homelessness is a real risk. When they default on payments they might find the bailiffs coming and they might lose their homes.”

“I think we are only going to see an increase of this type of activity as we come out of lock-down. At the moment bailiffs are on hold and debt agencies are not pursuing people actively because of the lock-down, but that means that potentially people’s debts are still increasing while lock-down is happening and they will come out of lock-down in a worse position than when they went into lock-down.”

To help those in need of help, St Andrew’s Community Network has embarked on an ambitious programme of creating pantries across North Liverpool. So far, seven are up-and-running, and six of these were set up under Covid. Many of those found to be homeless are being housed in temporary accommodation. Across Merseyside, 528 households were stuck in B&Bs, hostels and other temporary homes during the first national lockdown. That was down from 569 families in January and March, but up from 398 between April and June last year. The number included 369 children.

Between April and June 2020, 63,570 households approached their local council and were found to be homeless or at risk of homelessness. That was down from 76,460 households between January and March, however. The three most common triggers of homelessness during the initial lock-down period were no longer being able to stay with families and friends (33%), the loss of a private tenancy (11%) and domestic abuse (11%).

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “When coronavirus first struck, there were already too many people without a safe place to call home. Families across the country were terrified they would face eviction and homelessness in the middle of a pandemic. We cannot go back to that. The evictions ban meant many could stay safe in their homes and there was a national effort to help thousands off the streets.”

“With a new national lockdown approaching and Covid cases on the rise, the government must move again to make sure no one is forced from their home this winter by banning evictions nationwide. Right now, it’s too dangerous to allow anyone to become homeless. So, as well as preventing evictions, the government must direct councils to provide safe accommodation to anyone who is homeless or faced with the streets.”

New Briefing On Winter Homeless Crisis

On 2 November, Homeless Link called on the Government to deliver Everyone In 2.0 as we entered the winter lockdown. In the following days, the Government announced the Protect Programme, providing a £15 million top-up to areas with the highest rough sleeping numbers.

However, Homeless Link says the ‘Protect Programme’ does not go far enough and their new briefing sets out why we still need a second Everyone In scheme, backed by funding, in order to protect the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness.  It also presents findings from their membership surveys, collected over recent weeks and months, which demonstrate why this is so crucial to the health of the homelessness sector and the people we support.

They celebrate the great strides taken to protect people experiencing homelessness during and since the first COVID-19 lockdown and the funding already offered by Government that made this possible. However, they say they have heard the message from their members loud and clear: current funding levels are not enough for local areas to provide everyone who needs it with a safe place to stay. In addition, local authorities need clear leadership and direction from Government to enable them to support everyone, regardless of their immigration status or priority need, this winter.

As we move out of lockdown, it will again be vital that a transition plan is in place. The Government must take urgent steps to continue to support move-on from emergency accommodation and prevent even more people being forced into homelessness during the ongoing pandemic.

Jackie Bliss, CEO of HARP, Southend’s homeless charity, said: “The emergency measures put in place during the lockdowns were very much needed, but as these inevitably had to be short -term and reactive, simply repeating them now will not go far enough to address the impending crisis”

“Without a long-term Government commitment to providing the policy, support and funding to keep people off the streets, many will have no option but to sleep rough or to resort to unsuitable and unsafe accommodation. The emergency funding provided by the Government will not last forever, and a transition plan to a long-term, strategic approach is desperately needed. People’s lives are depending on it!” 

You can find out more at the Homeless Link webpage news.

Rough Sleepers Back On The Streets Of Wales

Nearly a quarter of the number of rough sleepers given temporary housing during Wales’ first lockdown are living on the streets again, figures show.

In April, all the estimated 407 rough sleepers were given a place to stay but Welsh Government figures indicated 101 people were sleeping rough in August, reports the BBC. Charity Shelter Cymru said it was “desperately disappointing”. The Welsh Government said it was providing funding and no-one should be homeless during the pandemic.

One man who has returned to sleeping in a tent said he felt “chucked to one side” by his local council. The 28-year-old from Bridgend, who did not want to be named, said he became homeless at the start of lockdown following a relationship breakdown. His epilepsy puts him in a high-risk category for rough sleepers. But he said he was “bounced” around three different placements before being kicked out over a fight with a fellow resident and then had to live in a tent, some nights burning his clothes to stay warm.

“I can stay in a hotel for a little bit or have a little bit of food and then back in the tent,” he said. [My epilepsy] is worse since all this stress, I’ve had more fits, more seizures than ever and I’ve been in and out of the hospital. How many other people are out there with other medical conditions and they’re not having the help? They just look at us and think ‘oh he’s homeless we’ll chuck him to the side, just like a waste of space’. That’s what I feel like, a waste of space just because I’m homeless.”

Bridgend County Borough Council said throughout the lockdown everyone requesting help has been given it, but it would not tolerate violent behaviour towards staff or residents. “We do not simply throw people out, and will always seek to work with them to help them overcome any problems or obstacles that may be preventing them from finding and keeping full-time accommodation,” it said.

Shelter Cymru, which is working with the man, said he was defending himself from a fellow resident who tried to attack him with a pair of scissors. Jennie Bibbings from the charity said: “It’s the pressure on temporary accommodation that is leading some councils to have incredibly strict policies. For example, not tolerating any argument with other residents and eviction for very low levels of arrears – these are the things that are leading people to the streets at the moment.” The man said it was his first time living in a homeless shelter and he struggled being surrounded by people who were recently in prison or who had drug and mental health problems.

Welsh Government figures for August showed 974 homeless people were placed in emergency accommodation in August, including 476 placements in long-term accommodation. But more than 3,566 people were in temporary accommodation and 101 were sleeping rough. That compares with April when temporary placements were found for all 407 of the people known to be sleeping rough in Wales. The government said its investment this year was “the first big stride” toward ending homelessness in Wales. Housing Minister Julie James said: “There’s no easy solution to this. I’ve been clear all the way through we have not solved this problem, but we’re on the right road to making sure people are housed and not sustained on the streets.”

Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, from charity the Wallich, said the government and councils did an “incredible job” at the start of the pandemic but many were again turning homeless people away from help because of a lack of space. “We didn’t solve poverty, we didn’t end homelessness, we haven’t solved substance misuse or mental health crises.” Ms Bibbings said back in April it felt like the “impossible had happened” to get everyone off the streets. “It is so desperately disappointing because we hoped those days might be behind us,” she said.

It comes despite the Welsh Government’s £50m plan in August to eliminate homelessness. Most councils have now applied for funding to add more housing spaces or hire support staff. A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are working with all partners to ensure that as a sector we are able to continue to meet the needs of anyone who needs a safe place to live and that we take the opportunity to help people into long-term stable housing.”

Free Haircuts Help The Homeless In Liverpool

A group of friends who completed their barbering training together have been visiting city centres to give free haircuts to homeless people, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Steve O’Connor, 29, together with friends Jake Kel and Luke Glover, both 25, all work in Barbers No1 at locations throughout the city and in Warrington. Steve told the Echo that after passing their apprenticeship training, the three got together and devised a plan to give something back to the community. For the past few weeks, the barbers have been out in Liverpool and Warrington town centres approaching homeless people and asking if they want a free haircut.

Steve said: “We just wanted to do something for people who are living on the streets. The sad thing is a lot of the fellas are 100% willing to get their hair cut but no one has ever asked them. We asked a few of them if they wanted us to take them somewhere out of the way to do their hair cut but they didn’t want to lose their patch.”

He added: “We don’t want to be doing it on the street. If there was somewhere else we could go we would. But they tell us they don’t feel confident enough to go into a barbers. They say they’ve got greasy hair and we were saying don’t worry about that.”

Steve said that the gratitude shown by those that accepted the offer of a free haircut had really touched their hearts. He said: “When we see the same fellas again they say, ‘ah thanks very much again mate’.” Steve said, ideally he would like to find a place where they could go and cut people’s hair that would offer them a bit more dignity.

He added: “So many were saying to us they hadn’t had their hair cut in years due to the stigma of going into a barbers. Obviously, being homeless and not having the money as well. But to see the way they react after it, they seem so much happier inside. We felt great because we knew they felt so much better in themselves.”

Thousands Made Homeless During The Pandemic

Tens of thousands of people have been made homeless since the start of the pandemic despite a ban on evictions with charities warning that younger people are falling through the gaps.

Since April this year at least 90,063 people in the UK have been threatened with homelessness – and more than half of these have already lost their accommodation, reports The Guardian. Charities say data shows a new cohort of homeless people who have slipped through the cracks despite protections such as the ban on evictions and a government scheme to house the homeless during the coronavirus crisis. These include young people, many of whom work in hospitality, who have lost their jobs and are struggling to support themselves financially. Many have precarious living arrangements meaning they were not protected from the evictions ban.

Ministers recently announced that renters would be protected during the new national restrictions, with no bailiff enforcement action. While the government said it had almost eradicated rough sleeping through its Everyone In scheme, the Guardian has found tens of thousands of newly homeless people presenting for support.

Paul Noblet, head of public affairs for the homeless charity Centrepoint, said: “Through our helpline, we have been hearing about lots of people losing their homes despite a ban on evictions – some of the calls are from young people who work in the hospitality industry whose home may have been linked to their job, so someone living at a hotel or a pub.” He added that being sent section 21 eviction notices from landlords would be stressful for people who did not know their rights. People who got eviction notices would be people living under the shadow of losing their home at the first opportunity the courts can reopen,” he said.

Lucy Abraham, chief executive of the homeless charity Glass Door, said it was seeing a large number of people in precarious living situations who had found themselves homeless. She said: “Workers who were sharing overcrowded houses found these situations untenable because everyone was suddenly supposed to be home the whole time rather than just sleeping there.”

Jonny Webb, a fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research who specialises on housing and homelessness, said official data showed there was a 69% fall in people being given section 21s this year compared with 2019 but people were still being evicted. “Some people will have been served a notice and not aware of the legal procedure to challenge, and think they must leave their accommodation. There could be rogue action from bailiffs, which shows even though the government put a system in place it is not necessarily working as it should be, and in fact, we are still seeing evictions under section 21 when they should be banned.”

Webb said people who are newly homeless are those living in “precarious situations” that would not be covered by the ban, or those “living with a violent partner”. He added: “This idea early on that [the government] said they had eradicated rough sleeping, that is definitely an overreaction especially when you look at reports showing those taken off the streets are now starting to slowly trickle back.”

The data comes from a freedom of information request replied to by 204 councils, which showed 36,359 were threatened with homelessness since the pandemic started. Data also showed 6,184 were served section 21 notices and 46,894 came to the council saying they were already homeless.

Karen Buck, the Labour MP for Westminster North, said: “There have been some illegal evictions [during the pandemic], which are being desperately underreported. At the moment the new homeless appears to be young singles – after we had the Everyone In scheme that was successful in terms of getting people off the streets but since that wound down the numbers have increased rapidly in London.” Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow housing secretary, said: “The prime minister’s order to stay at home will feel particularly hollow for people without anywhere to call ‘home’. Government ministers said that progress in March was an opportunity to end rough sleeping for good – but it looks like these gains have been lost.”

The government has announced an extra £15m to support people rough sleeping, which Jon Sparkes, from the charity Crisis, said was “welcome but does not go far enough and addresses just one part of the problem.” He said: “We appeal to the UK government to give local councils clear instruction and sufficient funding to ensure everyone is in safe and self-contained accommodation and, in doing so, build on the significant progress made this year in ending homelessness for good.”

A Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “This week we confirmed that bailiff enforcement action will not be permitted during the national restrictions or over the Christmas period – except in the most serious eviction cases such as those involving anti-social behaviour. This builds on existing protections, including six-month notice periods and new court rules meaning judges will prioritise the most serious of cases. We have also taken action to prevent people getting into financial hardship by helping businesses to pay salaries, extending the furlough scheme, and boosting the welfare safety net by over £9bn.”

Final Round Of Funding For Homeless Charities

A final 60 homelessness charities whose finances have been affected by the pandemic have been awarded grants from the second round of Homeless Link’s COVID-19 Homelessness Response Fund, reports Homeless Link.

Overall, 103 grants have been allocated, with organisations sharing a total of almost £4.3 million of funding provided by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, and Comic Relief, which raises money to support people around the world living incredibly tough lives. This Fund is now closed.

The funding is providing emergency financial assistance to local homelessness organisations that risked closure, service cuts or redundancies due to increased operational costs and a loss of income caused by COVID-19. It is also supporting organisations that needed to expand or adapt their services to safely support people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.

A wide range of organisations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have benefited, guaranteeing and improving support for groups including people facing multiple disadvantage, women and survivors of domestic violence, homeless young people, individuals from BAME groups and people identifying as LGBT+ and other minority groups.

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, comments: “The pandemic has hit local homelessness charities hard in many ways and yet, as always, they have risen to the challenge and continued to provide much needed support to people experiencing homelessness.”

He added: “We are delighted to have been able to offer financial support to these crucial organisations, enabling them to continue to pursue their missions at this critical time, and our sincere thanks go to The National Lottery Community Fund and Comic Relief for making this possible.”

The first round of funding from the COVID-19 Homelessness Response Fund consisted of £6 million provided by The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which was shared among 133 homelessness charities on 7 June.

Time For ‘Everyone In 2.0’

As a second lockdown looms over England, homelessness charities and councillors have urged the government to bring back a scheme thought to have saved the lives of hundreds of rough sleepers during the first, reports The Guardian.

About 15,000 homeless people were provided emergency accommodation in hotels in March and April this year as part of the “everyone in” policy. According to one study, the scheme saved an estimated 266 people from death. As details of England’s second lockdown appeared in the media and on reporters’ Twitter feeds on Saturday, homeless campaigners issued a fresh plea for a return to the policy.

“With a new lockdown imminent, the UK government must bring ‘Everyone In’ back in England with ring-fenced funding for local councils to provide Covid-safe accommodation for anyone experiencing or at risk of rough sleeping,” said Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis. This was echoed by Chris Wood, Shelter’s assistant director of research, who added that “this time” there must be “clear guidance to ensure it is everyone. No one should fall through the cracks this winter”.

When PM Boris Johnson eventually announced the “tougher national restrictions” during a Downing Street briefing on Saturday evening, no details of additional support for rough sleepers were offered, or requested in question from the press and public. Peter Apps, deputy editor of Inside Housing, tweeted that the issue was also “notable by absence” in a series of key questions and answers the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, shared following the announcement of the new restrictions.

Tom Copley, London’s deputy mayor for housing, said: “This is the crucial question which as of tonight we have no answer to. Rough sleepers are particularly vulnerable to Covid. Everyone In, pioneered in London, was world leading, and resulted in very low Covid infection rates amongst homeless people here. Now we need Everyone In 2.” He called on ministers to set out very quickly what additional funding they would provide to enable rough sleepers to be helped into Covid-safe accommodation as during the first lockdown.

Keiron Williams, the leader of Southwark council in south London, added: “To stay at home you have to have a home, yet the government is completely silent on support for rough sleepers during this lockdown.” He also called on the government to suspend its no recourse to public funds rules, which prevent people accessing social security and welfare because of their immigration status.

Last month doctors signed a letter warning that rough sleepers in the UK would die without a repeat of the “everyone in” policy adopted in March and April. Homeless people faced a dilemma between staying outside or squeezing into crowded shelters where Covid protection measures will be limited, the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of General Practitioners told ministers.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted for comment.