Helping The Homeless Cope With The Heat

There’s lots of information about how members of the public can take positive action when they see someone sleeping rough in cold weather. But periods of hot weather can also be harmful for people sleeping rough. Director of StreetLink Fiona Colley discusses what people can do if they are concerned about someone sleeping rough during the summer months.

In periods of severe cold weather increased attention rightly turns to the wellbeing of people sleeping rough. There are countless stories in the media, online campaigns and all sorts of information on how to help people sleeping on the streets during these difficult times. But there isn’t the same type of awareness of the impact of hot weather.

For people sleeping on the streets, it can be a challenge to find drinking water, cool showers and cool spaces to spend time in. Additionally, without safe storage, people are often wearing extra layers or carrying heavy bags all day. These factors combine to put people at risk of sunburn, dehydration and, in some cases, heat stroke. Many people who sleep rough also have underlying health conditions which can be exacerbated by hot weather, while people’s mental health can also often worsen in the heat and using drugs or alcohol in hot conditions can put people at even greater risk.

The impact of the coronavirus restrictions may also pose new problems. People are likely to be spending more time indoors in small, hot rooms. When outside, access to drinking water and air-conditioned public buildings has been restricted, while day centres can’t welcome as many people indoors during the heat of the day. Social distancing and hygiene measures might also be compromised if people share bottles of water or gather together to stay in the shade.

It’s clear from StreetLink’s own data that members of the public are concerned about the wellbeing of people sleeping rough during periods of high temperature. Alerts increased by around a quarter during the recent periods of hot weather. That’s why it’s so important members of the public know how to help if they are concerned about someone sleeping rough in the heat. While the English summer is notoriously unpredictable there are likely to be more mini-heatwaves like we witnessed in June over the next few months.

If you see someone sleeping rough during this time here are some simple things you can do:

  • Stop and say hello and ask how the person is doing.
  • Check if the person is happy to accept items such as water and sun cream to help keep them hydrated and protected from the sun. Umbrellas can also help people stay in the shade during particularly hot periods.
  • Ask a nearby café if they will let you ‘pay it forward’, so the person in question can pick up cold drinks and food when needed.
  • Make an alert via StreetLink. The alert will be passed to a local outreach service who will visit the person in question, aiming to connect them with local support services.

Merseyside Households Facing Eviction

Thousands of Merseyside families were made homeless or threatened with eviction since the start of the pandemic, reports the Liverpool Echo.

The latest available figures show that between April and December last year a total of 2,201 households asked their council for help after being made homeless, or as they were on the brink of losing their homes. Another 1,162 families were owed support after being threatened with the prospect of becoming homeless.  Local authorities have a ‘prevention duty’, which requires them to work with people who are threatened with homelessness within 56 days, to help to prevent them from losing their homes. A ‘relief duty’ is owed to people to help them resolve a homelessness crisis if prevention doesn’t work, or if they seek help when they are already homeless. It requires councils to take reasonable steps to secure accommodation for any eligible person who is homeless.

These figures, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, show that a total of 3,363 families and individuals have either lost their homes or been threatened with homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic in Merseyside (between April and December, 2020). That is 22% less than the 1,976 households who lost their last settled home, or were threatened with homelessness during the same period in 2019. However, the Government effectively introduced an “evictions ban” last summer, after introducing emergency legislation that prevented landlords from evicting tenants, except in extreme circumstances, or if they had given them six months notice.

In Merseyside, 904 requests for help with either relief or prevention duty came from families with dependent children. That means more than one in four households facing homelessness in our area were either couples with children, single parent families, or family groups of three or more adults and children. As of December 31 last year, 540 households were living in temporary accommodation in Merseyside – including 165 families with children, and a total of 363 youngsters.

The most common triggers of homelessness were households no longer being able to stay with families and friends (33%), the loss of a private tenancy (10%) and people fleeing domestic abuse (11%). But the figures also show 18 households were evicted illegally, which is normally when correct procedures have not been followed. In Merseyside, Knowsley had the highest rate of families facing homelessness. For every 1,000 households in the area, 11.4 were assessed as either homeless or at risk of homelessness. That was followed by St Helens (6.8 per 1,000 households and then Wirral (5.5).

Liverpool City council confirmed to the ECHO its position to date: Since last March, 750 households have been permanently rehoused – with full furniture packages and support. This equates to 1,200 individuals, including children. The council also confirmed that it achieved this in co-operation with several housing associations in the city, as well as support providers, to ensure everyone gets the right support. In terms of the current situation, there are another 60 households in the process of being rehoused, the council confirmed.

Across the whole of England, there were 95,370 homeless households living in temporary accommodation at the end of last year – 7,060 more (8%) than in December 2019. One in six of these households (17%) were placed into emergency B&Bs and hostels. A total of 197,310 households approached their local councils and were found to be either homeless or at risk of homelessness during the pandemic. That is 7% fewer than the 211,760 who were owed a prevention or relief duty between April and December in 2019. The Government said it has taken “unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic”. That includes providing £310 million to help prevent people from becoming homeless, as part of a £750 million investment to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in 2021/22.

However, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “To say the last year has been difficult for homeless families is a gross understatement, it’s been atrocious. Months of lockdown and school closures spent in cramped, shoddy temporary accommodation with no space to learn or work, and often without access to basics like the internet or a washing machine. The economic impact of the pandemic has exposed the true cost of decades of failure to build the social homes we need. More than 60,000 households were tipped into homelessness last winter – even with the evictions ban. In just over a month the ban on evictions is going to lift, and even more struggling families could be faced with the same fate.”

Ms Neate added: “Despite the clear danger that homelessness will rise, the Government remains focused on expensive home ownership schemes, rather than anything resembling truly affordable housing. If the Government wants this country to recover quickly from the pandemic, investing in a new generation of secure social homes is an absolute must.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “These figures show our actions have protected renters from eviction, supported rough sleepers and other vulnerable people, and helped keep them safe during the pandemic. Renters continue to be protected, including through six-month notice periods and a ban on the enforcement of evictions, except in the most serious circumstances. But there is more still to do, and we will continue to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping with over £750 million funding this year alone.”

‘Desperate Need’ For More Social Housing

A rising number of homeless people are being placed into bed and breakfast accommodation, the Local Government Association said.

Councils in England are spending five times more on housing homeless people in B&Bs than they were a decade ago, analysis of official figures shows, reports the Evening Standard. A rising number of homeless people are being placed into bed and breakfast accommodation due to a shortage of suitable housing, the Local Government Association (LGA) said. Councils spent £142 million housing families and homeless individuals in B&Bs in 2019-20, according to data from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). This is up from £26.7 million in 2010/11.

Provisional Government figures also show that there were 10,510 households in B&Bs in the last three months of 2020 – more than four times the number a decade ago (2,310). The LGA said the figures underline the “desperate need” for more social housing. It is calling for councils to be given further powers and resources to build 100,000 social homes for rent each year.

Councillor David Renard, LGA housing spokesman, said: “Sadly, these figures reflect the scale of the housing challenges that our country faces. Councils will only use bed and breakfasts as a last resort, but the severe lack of suitable housing means they now have no choice. This is hugely disruptive to families with children, and the rising demand for support has come with soaring costs for councils. Throughout the pandemic government has trusted councils to get on with the job of protecting the nation, supporting people and putting infrastructures in place to help with recovery.”

Cllr Renard added: “We want to continue this momentum and work with government to tackle the shortage of housing and build the homes the country desperately needs. With the right funding and freedoms, councils can help government achieve its ambitions for our national recovery from the pandemic. Giving councils the powers to build council housing on the scale required, would go a significant way towards reducing homelessness and the need to place households in bed and breakfasts.”

Next week, hundreds of council leaders and officials will come together virtually for the LGA’s annual conference. The LGA is also calling for the Government to bring forward its pledge to end so-called “no fault” evictions, and maintain the temporary £20-a-week Universal Credit increase, due to end in September. And it wants to see a review of the benefits cap in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “As you would expect, the decisive action we have taken to protect vulnerable people and save lives during the pandemic has clearly contributed to these figures. Our Homelessness Reduction Act has already helped nearly 350,000 households into more permanent accommodation and we’re investing £750 million over the next year alone to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping and lessen the need for temporary accommodation. We’re investing more than £12 billion in affordable housing over five years, the largest investment in a decade, with half for affordable and social rent.”

New Government Bill Threatens The Homeless

Homeless Link set out their concerns about Part 4 of the Police Bill, which could have important implications for homelessness.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is one of the most controversial bills in Parliament at present.  It is an extraordinarily complex piece of legislation, running to 307 pages in 13 different parts. Homeless Link is most concerned about Part 4, entitled “Unauthorised Encampments”, which has not yet been the subject of so much scrutiny. Along with voices across the homelessness sector, we are calling for Part 4 of the Bill to be scrapped. This part of the Bill follows an earlier consultation on the criminalisation of trespass to which Homeless Link gave evidence last year. Our concern is that the legislation could be used against people sleeping rough or sleeping in cars.

In the homelessness sector we have fought for many years against the criminalisation of rough sleeping, and for evidence-based, support-led interventions. For this reason, Homeless Link has been proud to be a member of the Scrap the Act Coalition, the campaign to repeal the Vagrancy Act. Earlier this year the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick MP, finally agreed that the Vagrancy Act should be replaced and said he would look at alternatives. It would be deeply unfortunate if in the same breath many people sleeping rough were once again criminalised by a poorly worded clause in the Police Bill.

In the original consultation the government asked what we thought of making it a criminal offence to trespass on private property. Homeless Link, along with many others expressed our concerns about the impact this could have on the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Community. We were also concerned that badly worded legislation could also criminalise people who are rough sleeping. As a result of these arguments, the Bill that Parliament is currently debating specified that it would become an offence to reside on private land without consent in or with a vehicle. You could be forgiven for thinking that this would protect rough sleepers – but actually many people facing homelessness do end up sleeping in cars, whilst others in the informal economy of delivery driving, are likely to sleep with their scooters or vans in temporary camps. In 2018 our member Crisis estimated that on any given night up to 12,000 people may be sleeping in cars, tents or on public transport.

If the Bill is passed with its current wording it will mean that someone sleeping in a car, if they fail to move on when asked, could be committing a criminal offence, have their vehicle seized and face criminal penalties. The government has said that this is not their intention – but the explanatory notes are not part of the law and in a few years’ time some police forces might choose to interpret this as the new “vagrancy act”.

The Government is very clear and open that their purpose for part 4 is to crack down on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller encampments. This also gives Homeless Link a great deal of concern and we are working closely with Friends, Families and Travellers to remove part 4. There are nowhere near enough sites for travellers in England. Research by traveller groups, published in January, say there is a shortfall in official sites provided by local authorities, with 1,696 households on waiting lists for 59 vacant permanent pitch sites. The new power to seize the vehicles from traveller encampments will very clearly risk many families becoming homeless.

Whatever you think of the rest of the Police Bill, there are several good reasons why Part 4 should be scrapped. We call on Government to scrap Part 4 of the Police Bill, to protect people sleeping rough and prevent the further marginalisation of our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Welsh Tenants Fear Eviction

“Hundreds” of people could be forced from their homes after the ban on evictions comes to an end next week, reports the BBC.

Shelter Cymru said Wales’ system “won’t cope” with the fresh demand that may be placed on it after 30 June. The evictions ban in Wales came into force in December “to protect public health and support Welsh tenants”. The Welsh government said the decision had been made to lift the measure, in line with easing other Covid restrictions. The ban on evictions initially ran to the end of March, but was then extended. Ministers have now confirmed the ban would not be extended further “in line with the lifting of other restrictions as we are in “alert level one”. A similar ban in England ended on 31 May.

Landlords will still have to give tenants six months’ notice before evicting them. Shelter Cymru campaigns head, Jennie Bibbings, said suspending evictions “saved lives”. Ms Bibbings told the BBC’s Politics Wales numbers that could be affected were “likely to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands”. She said: “It’s not just about the ones that are already in the system, it’s about all of the new evictions that are going to start coming through once landlords get the message that the ban is lifted.”

Sarah Davies, who lives in Ynyswen, Powys, with her five-year-old daughter, is facing eviction. She said she stopped paying rent after her landlord ignored requests for maintenance work to be carried out on the house. The landlord strongly rejects that version of events. Now, Ms Davies is waiting for a knock on the door. “I’m kind of half-prepared for it. Obviously, I don’t want to get my daughter too upset, so I’ve got friends in place if that does happen and they can come and grab her away so she doesn’t have to go through that trauma.

“It would just be nice to have some more time.”

She said the Welsh government needed to “look at the bigger picture”. “If everything goes into lockdown again and the B&Bs shut again, what are you going to do? We’ll all be out on the street.” Ms Bibbings said a third wave of the virus could mean the eviction ban has to be reintroduced. “We’ve all just got to hope that not too much damage has been done in the meantime,” she said. “Our system in Wales won’t cope with a new wave of homelessness.”

The National Residential Landlords Association said the announcement did “provide some more stability” for landlords, but warned the sector’s rent arrears crisis was “not going away”. The Welsh government said a scheme to help people “struggling to pay their rent due to financial hardship caused directly by the pandemic” would be announced this week. A spokeswoman said: “In the meantime, we continue to urge anybody experiencing problems to speak to their landlord and contact Citizen’s Advice Cymru or Shelter Cymru for further advice and support.”

Restaurant Feeds The Homeless

A London restaurant has supported a homeless charity by helping deliver more than 75,000 meals to rough sleepers since last March.

One of London’s longest-standing Indian restaurants is hosting an exhibition celebrating volunteers who helped deliver more than 75,000 meals to rough sleepers across the capital during the pandemic. The restaurant, Punjab, which has sat at the top of Covent Garden’s Neal Street since 1951, is displaying photographic portraits of volunteers who worked with non profit Under One Sky, taking meals out to the homeless each day.

Photographer Stefan Hanegraaf’s pictures of the volunteers, who are known as Skywalkers – and for whom top bar manager Anna Sebastian launched a cocktail kit in support of – went on display this week, and will be up until August 15. Hanegraaf himself became a Skywalker when he began volunteering with the group in the first lockdown.

The family-run Punjab, which is thought to be the country’s oldest Northern Indian restaurant, began working with Under One Sky in March of last year, offering the charity a base to operate out of, as well as kitchen resources and space. As well as the 75,000 meals the restaurant helped serve, it also provided an additional 175,000 other meals to a number of charities, community organisations and food banks.

Owner Amrit Maan, whose great-grandfather first opened the restaurant, said of the partnership: “At the start of the pandemic I was determined not to close the kitchens, and put the resources I had to be of service to the community in as significant a way as possible. Teaming up with Under One Sky meant that my core volunteer team and I were able to roll up our sleeves and do what we do best – deliver delicious food with love and care and deliver hospitality in a new way, providing a safe base for the Under One Sky volunteer community.”

Amrit added: “These Skywalkers have become part of the Punjab family and I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate them than showcasing them right here on our restaurant walls.”

Thanking Maan, Under One Sky founder Mikkel Juel Iversen said: “If it weren’t for Amrit and his team at Punjab, we would have not have been able to have delivered half the impact we have over the past year. As a small but powerful grassroots organisation, everything we achieve is through positive relationship and partnerships. The significance of this particular collaboration cannot be underplayed, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to shine a light on some of our wonderful volunteers in this way.”

Donations Pour In For Homeless Man Who Was Attacked

A homeless man has received an outpouring of support after he was reportedly attacked by a gang of kids, reports the Liverpool Echo.

The Echo reported on Sunday that Tracey Britton found the man called Mark, ‘with tears in his eyes’ outside Aldi on Queens Drive in West Derby as he told her what had happened. Mark told Tracey he was beaten up by a gang of kids on Friday, June 11, who filmed the attack and left him with a black eye and broken ribs. 

After Mark told her what happened, Tracey posted on Facebook in the hope of getting him some help. People across the city shared their shock and disgust at the news as many people said they were keen to try and help him. In a bid to do this, Tracey and a few others have set up a GoFundMe page which has now raised more than £1,00 in donations.

A spokesperson from the Whitechapel Centre said they are aware of the incident and their outreach team has been out looking for Mark. They said: “We absolutely are aware of it and we’re trying to make contact to see if we can support him in any way.”

Anyone who is concerned about someone who is sleeping rough can call the Whitechapel Centre’s 24-hour Always Help Available helpline on 0300 123 2041. Always dial 999 in an emergency.

Homeless ‘Cleared Out’ Of Cornwall To Make Way For G7

The G7 cavalcades have left ­Carbis Bay now, and the whirr of helicopters has been replaced once more by birdsong. But as the ‘ring of steel’ is dismantled, there has been more left hanging over Cornwall this week than a sense of missed opportunity, reports the Mirror.

As former Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the summit of ­“unforgivable moral failure” after nothing was agreed on global vaccination, locals are facing a Covid wave. Areas around where the G7 summit happened last weekend are now showing some of the highest rates of infection in the UK, with St Ives and Falmouth up exponentially. Meanwhile, local charities say that homeless people were “cleared out” of local hotels to sleep in cars and tents to make way for the G7 staff and security entourage, and house prices have rocketed as a global television audience admired the white sands and turquoise waters.

As a £90million G7 ended without addressing the needs of the world’s poor, foodbanks in Cornwall are piled high with food waste from its buffets and banquets. “We’ve had 1,000 chicken legs in the freezer, and about 1,000 vegan rolls,” says Monique Collins of DISC (Drop In and Share Centre) Newquay, which supports homeless and vulnerable people in south west Cornwall. “There are tonnes of scones, Victoria sponges and litres of double cream. We’ll make use of all of it, and we’re grateful to have it donated. But yes, it does feel wrong. Cornwall could have used £90m as we’ve got some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country.”

The G7 unfolded as a heavily styled luxury beach wedding with its summer dresses, champagne and sunsets, and was hailed as Boris’s Great Success by the ­Government. The irony is not lost on those forced to sleep rough when the hotel rooms they were offered during the pandemic were withdrawn. Adding to G7 staff, 5,000 police officers were shipped into Cornwall during the summit.

“A few months ago, it was ‘Everyone In’,” Monique says. “Last week it was Everyone Out. These rooms were booked a year ago, so we knew this was coming. We’ve had people sleeping in cars, on the beach, in tents, sometimes left on the roadside with their clothes in bin bags, and staying with local residents. Some people were shipped out to expensive hotels. Added to which we were nearly Covid-free down here and we’re now facing a massive wave.”

Locals say the Cornish housing crisis, already exacerbated by people leaving cities after Covid, has been turbocharged. Becky Draper, a 33-year-old mother of four, is facing eviction in Perranporth, 20 miles from Carbis Bay. “It will be our fourth move in five years,” she says. The family aren’t protected by the eviction ban – it is under ‘no fault’ Section 21 because the landlord is selling the property.

Newquay hosted the airport for the G7 – with an estimated £8m spent on lengthening the runway for Air Force One. George Duncan, 20, who works as a cocktail barman, speaks to me from self-isolation in the town after testing positive for Covid last week. “There are at least 12 venues including schools closed locally,” he says. “I’ve had quite bad symptoms but not being able to work is worse.” He and his housemate, also in hospitality, were receiving food parcels from DISC Newquay.

During the G7, Rev Chris Wallis put a sign up outside his church in St Ives to say: “Please remember when discussing economic recovery from Covid-19 – food poverty has quadrupled in this area.” He feels the G7 visit has turned a difficult situation into a crisis. “It showcased Cornwall all over the world when house prices are a major concern here,” he says. “The cost of putting a roof over people’s heads is leading to food poverty. Estate agents are telling me it’s out of control, people ringing from outside Cornwall offering 10% over the asking price, property unseen. Meanwhile, one of our foodbank clients who recently had a heart bypass has had to move to a caravan. Another is sleeping in his car and going into work each day.”

Rightmove has reported that ­property searches for Carbis Bay doubled when the summit opened. “Even I am affected by this,” Rev Wallis says. “I am actually facing ­eviction myself and have no idea where I can afford to go.” Cornwall Council says there is no evidence to connect the rise in case numbers to the G7 summit.

A spokeswoman added: “The lack of availability of temporary accommodation in local hotels is a seasonal issue which has been exacerbated by the exceptional number of people we are supporting due to the pandemic. We continue to support those affected and offer alternative accommodation when a current placement has to end due to booking availability.”

After last week’s summit, Oxfam’s Max Lawson summed up G7’s failures. “This summit will live on in infamy. Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world. We don’t need to wait for history to judge this summit a colossal failure, it is plain for all to see.” For many people in Cornwall, the consequences have already hit.

Hotels For The Homeless

Thousands of rough sleepers were given rooms in hotels as part of the UK’s emergency response to coronavirus during the first lockdown. The unprecedented effort was described by some as a silver lining to the dark clouds of Covid-19, reports the BBC.

“At the beginning, we were thrown in at the deep end – nobody had ever done this before,” says Kath Meighan, thinking back to March 2020 after a busload of rough sleepers had been dropped off at the Holiday Inn in Gorton, Manchester. “It was seven days a week for 12, 13 hours a day. I remember the first month and my manager said, ‘I think we’re gonna have to talk about your overtime,'” she laughs. Kath had been tasked with running the homeless provision at the hotel for a housing association called Riverside, and about 500 people came under her care over the next 14 months.

Initially, it was what Kath describes as “our more chaotic individuals” – rough sleepers with drug or alcohol addiction, or mental health problems, or all of these things. For some it was years since they had slept on a bed, had their own room, private washing facilities or regular meals. They required intensive support not just for health issues but also with setting up bank accounts and benefits claims, and different agencies came to the hotel to provide it.

What had been the hotel reception area turned into a one-stop shop, where residents could get the help they needed without the formality and forward planning required for appointments. And it worked incredibly well, Kath says. Of the 500 who passed through the hotel, 100 were evicted – for things like persistently smoking in their rooms or anti-social or aggressive behaviour – and around 90 left the hotel of their own accord. But roughly half of those who stayed have been moved on to other accommodation, usually supported housing or temporary accommodation. Those people wouldn’t have had the same opportunity if the pandemic hadn’t come along.

Over the summer, as the first wave of coronavirus in the UK eased, many of the hotels in Manchester stopped providing accommodation for homeless people. But a handful of them – including the Holiday Inn – were kept going. Around that time, Kath noticed a change in the types of people referred to the hotel. There were women – and some men – fleeing domestic violence, which had surged during lockdown. And there were also people in work, who had been kicked out of rented property despite the government’s ban on evictions.

“We still had people, you know, ‘He just told me to leave,’ or ‘She told me to leave.’ And so I saw a complete shift in the type of people who had become homeless. They were now homeless as a direct result of the pandemic.” The hotel had capacity for 55 homeless people, and never had fewer than 49. None of them showed symptoms of Covid for the first nine months, but just after Christmas Kath and two other members of staff came down with it, and one of the homeless guests had to self-isolate.

“We’d done so well to keep Covid out of this hotel for so long,” Kath says. “We went from March to January without anything and then it just happened in January.” Kath’s symptoms were atypical. “No cough, no shortness of breath,” she says. But she was the only one to end up in hospital. “Had to be me,” she jokes, “because it had to be the drama queen.” After a few days semi-conscious, Kath says she woke up to find staff telling her they were preparing her for intensive care and asking if she wanted to speak to anyone in her family.

“I knew what they were telling me. I didn’t want to have that conversation. Just to think about this is really upsetting, because I heard those conversations. I heard them and I asked myself, why do they keep putting people who are dying beside me? Why do I have the dying patients, the people who are dying from Covid besides me? But they weren’t – everybody was dying. Everyone was dying.”

The residents at the hotel were just told Kath was taking a break. They had seen her putting in long hours. She was the go-to person for everything – “kind of the mother figure,” as she puts it – and she thought they would worry if they knew the whole story. Thankfully, Kath began to recover and by late February, she was back at work. It wasn’t long before she got confirmation from the council that the homeless provision at the Holiday Inn would be wound up at the end of May, with no new guests given a room from mid-April.

So why has the Holiday Inn said goodbye to its last homeless residents? “The Holiday Inn is an established commercial hotel,” says Moh Hussein, Manchester City Council’s interim director of homelessness. “If the answer is, ‘A hotel,’ the question is, ‘Where should I go for the weekend,’ not ‘Where should I live?'”

But people working in the homelessness sector in Manchester, including the police who’ve worked closely with Kath and the Holiday Inn, say it has been invaluable as a means of getting people into longer-term accommodation. Moh Hussein accepts this, but he says the reason for the hotel’s success is that it was clean and self-contained and didn’t come with the reputation that some of Manchester’s established accommodation for homeless people has – not the fact that it was called “The Holiday Inn”.

But why didn’t the council find a similar place to ensure no gap in provision? “Essentially, we would have to have found a building that we already owned that we could quickly redesign and repurpose and it would have to be empty to start. But that is the direction of our travel,” Moh Hussein says.

Kath is adamant that the model can and should be repeated. “It didn’t need to take a pandemic,” she says. We proved it can be done on a large scale. Can we have another hotel? We want another hotel – and we can make it work. We just need a purpose-built building just like this with rooms, security, a good team. And let’s go again.”

HSBC ‘No-Fixed-Address’ Account Helps The Homeless

A homeless man from Wirral said a bank saved him from the streets and now his life is “much brighter”, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Eddie (not his real name) became homeless in 2019 after his relationship broke down due to him losing his job. The 34-year-old was left with no accommodation and no income, he felt he had nowhere to turn so began sleeping at a night shelter. He was there when the pandemic hit and after a few days was offered temporary accommodation at a local B&B but without a bank account was unable to apply for permanent housing.

Eddie said: “One of the requirements of being accepted for housing is a bank account which I didn’t have. I’d been turned away by banks in the past as I’d lost my ID when I became homeless. After being referred to Wirral Ark they told me about the HSBC UK No Fixed Address service and set up a meeting. I was overwhelmed with the support I received from the bank and life was looking a little better. That same week I was offered a one-bedroom flat with a local social housing provider and I was more than happy when they asked if I had a bank account as I could now move forward with the application.”

He added: “I’m now pleased to say I have my own home and life is that much brighter thanks to the support of the HSBC UK No Fixed Address service.”

The HSBC UK No Fixed Address service was first launched in December 2019 and provides people with access to a basic bank account without the need for photo ID or proof of address. The Birkenhead branch on Borough Road has just opened the 1000th bank account for individuals experiencing homelessness or housing issues.

Paul Hardman, CEO of Wirral Ark, said: “Homelessness is a complex issue and our clients experience multiple barriers and exclusions which make securing an independent future incredibly challenging. We have seen first-hand the powerful impact HSBC UK’s No Fixed Address service can make by helping our clients. Without this service our clients cannot access the benefits they need to get their life back on track, seek employment or secure their own home, which undermines their attempts to rebuild their lives and escape the devastating cycle of homelessness.”

Paul added: “We saw the impact on homeless people who did not have bank cards during the food shortage of the first lockdown. Many of our residents could not purchase food online or in shops as they were unable to use cash. We congratulate HSBC UK for the service and we are delighted that one of our clients is the 1000 th beneficiary of the No Fixed Address programme.”

Joanne Hornblower, HSBC UK’s local director for Birkenhead, said: “Homelessness is a huge issue affecting the UK, even more so since the pandemic hit. In Merseyside, there are still people sleeping on the streets and hundreds more homeless and in temporary accommodation. I’m extremely proud to offer this service to those who need it in the local community and it’s heart warming to see the difference it has made to people such as Eddie. The No Fixed Address service was founded in Merseyside so it’s fitting that we have hit this milestone right where the very first account was opened.”

Jo Cutler, Shelter’s Merseyside hub manager, said: “As this pandemic has shown, home is everything. Yet our housing emergency means thousands of people across the country don’t have one – and sometimes this means they are left sleeping on the street. Surviving without somewhere warm, clean or safe to call home is hard enough. Not having a bank account to do vital things like access benefits or get your wages paid makes it even harder.”

Jo added: “We’re proud the No Fixed Address scheme has already helped a thousand people take the first steps towards gaining the financial independence that will help them rebuild their lives. And we look forward to working closely with HSBC UK to expand this life-changing service to more parts of the country.”

For more information on No Fixed Address, including which branches offer the service, please click here.