‘Perfect Storm’ Puts Liverpool Rough Sleepers At Risk

Over the past 18 months, something remarkable happened in cities like Liverpool, writes Liam Thorp for the Liverpool Echo.

For a sustained period, when walking around the city centre, you would struggle to see anyone sleeping rough. No sleeping bags, hardly any makeshift beds. The pandemic spread untold pain and misery in cities like this one, but on certain issues – like homelessness and rough sleeping – it appeared to galvanise a movement and a strategy that had been lacking for so long and engineered some seriously impressive results.

In late March 2020, the government asked local councils across England to “help make sure we get everyone in”, including those who would not normally be entitled to assistance under homelessness legislation. Emergency funding was deployed and local authorities raced to ensure that those who were sleeping rough were placed in safe, secure accommodation. They block booked hotels, secured en-suite apartments, took over student halls and found rooms in bed and breakfasts.

These, of course, were exceptional circumstances but almost overnight the rough sleeping crisis in cities like Liverpool was on the way to being solved. A government taskforce was launched, spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey, that worked with local authorities to try and ensure that those who had been taken off the streets during the Everyone In project could be placed in longer-term accommodation and not return to the city streets. In Liverpool an allocations panel was set up which matched people with permanent homes, moving people and families quickly from temporary accommodation into long-term housing.

The results were extraordinary – Everyone In saw 1,800 people accommodated. The subsequent allocations panel ended homelessness for 934 households in Liverpool, with a further 100 matched to new accommodation. The government says it is looking to follow on from the success of Everyone In, but the emergency funding has ended and those working in the sector in Liverpool have said they are seeing the numbers of people now returning to the streets rising again – at the worst possible time.

Charities have described a ‘perfect storm’ made up of the end of that funding, the winter weather arriving and other factors like the removal of the Universal Credit uplift fusing together to create a very dangerous moment for some very vulnerable people in the city. Liverpool Council closed its emergency night shelter, Labre House, during the pandemic and it will not reopen.

The authority has just launched a consultation on its new homelessness and rough sleeping strategy, informed by Everyone In, called the Liverpool Ladder. The strategy will look to move away from the well-intentioned, but sometimes chaotic nature of things at Labre House and towards services that lead more quickly to secure housing and accommodation, with a dedicated street outreach team and a city centre hub to help people get on that ladder. This all sounds very positive, but it will take time and what is happening right now remains a key concern for those working in the area.

David Carter, chief executive of the Whitechapel Centre, said: “The pandemic was horrendous, but it did galvanize change. All these different groups, councils, social housing providers, charities like us came together, all free properties that came up went to homeless people. When you look at the numbers, it was massive. It was the biggest sea change in my time working in this sector. It broke down barriers of exclusion. Everyone In meant that people started with good quality, furnished accommodation but then they had the ability to quickly move on to more long-term accommodation, they weren’t stuck there, it was a pathway out. People were being treated with and living with dignity and they were motivated to change and move forward. The whole thing came together.”

He added: “We’re now in an interim period and the danger, from our perspective, is that we return to what was there before. Labre House won’t reopen but we do need an alternative that offers pathways off the street and into long-term accommodation. Homelessness isn’t a need, its a symptom of not having what you need, whether that’s housing or support services, you need to change those bits and stop people falling into it. One of the things the pandemic has shown is that money does make a big difference, if it’s spent in the right areas and targeted in the right way.”

Mr Carter said that during the pandemic his outreach teams would only be seeing one or two rough sleepers in the city centre – unfortunately in recent weeks that number has risen to between 15 and 20. He added: “We’re in a transition, the pandemic isn’t over. It’s a state of flux. There is an intention and a will to change things for the better locally – but there is a potential gap there right now. Everyone In ended, but the alternatives weren’t there at the right time – and now we are in winter, a crunch moment and that is a worry.”

“We believe the funding should continue in the way it was during the pandemic, because there are more problems to come in terms of mental health issues, Universal Credit cuts and the return of evictions. We need a long term strategy and a long term commitment to funding and that will make the change we need.”

Someone else who saw the impacts of the Everyone In drive first hand was Michelle Langan, who runs the Papercup Project that works to support rough sleepers on the streets of Liverpool. She said: “During the pandemic when we were going out, there were usually four or five people sleeping rough in the city centre. They were entrenched rough sleepers who didn’t want to engage with services. Our charity managed to find and fund accommodation for one of them. But obviously walking around town there was hardly anyone sleeping rough and we hadn’t seen anything like that in Liverpool for a long time.”

“But over the past couple of months, we have seen those numbers rising again and more people who are newly homeless. Over the past couple of weeks people who were being put up at apartments in the city are back on the streets because that funding has finished. We know the council and housing associations are under lots of pressure with funding cuts and the end of the evictions ban. It feels like there is a perfect storm happening right now and we are definitely seeing more people on the streets again.”

Ms Langan agreed with Mr Carter that what happened during the pandemic was the most transformational change she has ever seen when it comes to tackling rough sleeping and homelessness. She said: “It was unbelievable. I never thought I would be able to walk around town and not see any sleeping bags. They found a way to fix it and it is all about money. Now they are saying they will put some other funding towards it, but it won’t be forever, and that doesn’t work as a long-term strategy. It doesn’t make financial sense either because it means people keep needing those services. One of the long-term homeless men who is now back on the streets has now been in hospital for the past three weeks with an injury picked up on the streets – that’s not good for anyone is it? Its putting pressure on other services too.”

Ms Langan, who has given evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on homelessness, said she fears that with Covid cases rising and the winter weather set to bite, homeless people in Liverpool will be in real danger. She said: “It’s really hard for us to see, because the way it is ending is as we go into winter, with covid, flu, other conditions, with restrictions lifted. And people are back on the streets and extremely vulnerable to these things, it’s really frightening. I think without a doubt we will see deaths on the streets. In a normal year we see deaths on the streets, now we have these viruses circulating, it’s really worrying.”

Responding to the concerns, a spokesperson for Liverpool City Council said: “Since the end of the summer, the city has returned to its Always Help Available approach, as providers who supported our pandemic response, such as hotels, have returned to their normal business. This means that anyone who is rough sleeping can rely on the council and its partners to support them to come off of the streets initially into temporary accommodation. The council responded to the government’s ‘Everyone In’ response to rough sleeping by leasing a range of apart hotels, and other Covid secure amenities, including those with 24-hour support staff. Through this approach we accommodated over 2,200 single people and there were very low levels of Covid outbreaks, which demonstrates the effectiveness of the model.”

“However, reducing homelessness demands far more complex solutions than moving people into temporary accommodation. When we are supporting people we are committed to ending their homelessness permanently. A key part of the our new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2021-26, which is currently out to consultation, is the continuing need for immediate access to support and accommodation.”

“We’ve looked at a range of options that can provide a ‘First Step from the Street’ solution and this approach started in September. We now have two sites and both are staffed 24 hours, seven days a week. However, we remain concerned about the onset of winter and we are looking into opportunities to provide additional units of emergency accommodation to prevent anyone rough sleeping in our city. Alongside this, we will be further developing and expanding the interventions being delivered by outreach teams to people engaged in a street-based lifestyle. This includes faster access to treatment, rehab and mental health support through our new ‘Pathways’ team which will be offering intensive treatment to people who misuse drugs and alcohol.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: ““Everyone In protected thousands of rough sleepers throughout the pandemic with 26,000 moved to long-term accommodation. We are building on that success and the 37% reduction in rough sleeping by investing £750m to tackle the issue.”

Higher Rates of Homelessness Amongst Young Black People

Youth homeless in the UK has increased by an estimated two-fifths in five years, rising to more than 120,000, a leading charity director has warned, as fresh analysis suggests that black households are likely to be disproportionally affected, reports the Guardian.

Seyi Obakin, the chief executive of Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, said its estimates show 86,000 young people in the UK presented to their local authority as homeless or at risk in 2016/17, and that the figure increased to 121,000 in 2019-20. Obakin expressed fears that youth homelessness would worsen as a result of the pandemic, with Centrepoint’s helpline receiving a record number of calls since the start of the crisis. He also believes young black Britons will probably be disproportionally affected.

His warnings come as Guardian analysis shows that although England’s black population stands at about 3.5%, black households make up 10% of those that are homeless or at risk of homelessness, according to data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) for the year 2020-21. In London, black households represent 30% of those owed homelessness prevention or homelessness relief by their local authorities, despite making up just 12.5% of London’s population. In the Guardian analysis, homelessness, and being at risk of homelessness, is defined by whether a local authority owes prevention or relief duty to a household. The data is not broken down by age.

Mr Obakin said: “It is not surprising that black households are overrepresented in official homelessness statistics, but this does not mean we should tolerate it. Without a home, children’s development and educational attainment suffers and it becomes harder to find a job or stay healthy or maintain relationships that enable people to thrive.” He said that Centrepoint saw a third more calls to the helpline since the start of pandemic, with huge surges of demand around local lockdowns. He pinned this increase down to the multiple crisis disproportionally affecting young people, from mental health issues to high unemployment, and urged the government to intervene.

“The problem is worse than it was a decade ago and it’s actually worse than it was two years ago,” Obakin said. “It is heartbreaking to see the range of complex issues that young people are presenting with is also getting wider. That in a way is a mirror of what’s happening in society itself.” He said racial disparities in youth unemployment, with Guardian analysis showing black youth unemployment was more than three times higher than among their white counterparts, had a knock-on effect on youth homelessness. “We know from our data that about three-fifths of young people who seek help from Centrepoint are from ethnically diverse backgrounds,” he added.

He fears the problem will worsen now the government has pushed ahead with its planned cuts to universal credit, which he describes as a vital safety net. “That safety net is what is being cut. So I worry young black people will be disproportionately affected,” he said. Obakin said that through the newly created DLUHC, the government has a “tremendous opportunity” to not only tackle rough sleeping, “but to go beyond and ensure that those who are homeless, or face homelessness are given the support and services they need before they have to sleep rough. That is good for the people, and it is also good for the taxpayer.”

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “The government is helping prevent more young people from becoming homeless, and this year we’ve invested £750m to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. During the pandemic we made huge progress to bring rough sleepers off the streets, helping over 37,000 people into safe and secure accommodation, including 26,000 who have already moved into longer-term accommodation.”

How Do You Explain Homelessness To A Child?

A little girl is on mission to make homeless people smile in Chester and Liverpool, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Carly Davies, 25, had just picked up her six-year-old niece, Lia, from school last Monday (October 11) afternoon when the little girl made a surprise suggestion. Carly told the Echo: “She said that she saw somebody in town and that she realised they didn’t have a pillow, and she thought they’d get sore necks.”

Carly, who herself was once homeless and living in hostels, explained to Lia that these people are homeless and have nowhere to go. Carly said: “I just said to her that some people aren’t as lucky as others. They’re still people and they still deserve the same amount of kindness as everybody else. It’s just that they haven’t got a bedroom like she has. They have to stay out there.”

Carly added: “I just explained to Lia that I’m going to be going out to give blankets out and that, and she said she wanted to come. She had the idea of giving out toothpaste as well so they could keep their teeth clean, and hand sanitizer because of the virus.”

Lia, from Chester, told the Echo: “I want to make people smile because I don’t want people being sad, it makes me feel bad.” Her aunt Carly likes that Lia wants to help, but she also felt bad when Lia told her. Carly said: “People shouldn’t be on the streets. You shouldn’t be seeing people in that situation, should you?”

Speaking of her own time being homeless, Carly said: “I was lucky enough to be in hostels, but it’s not a nice experience. You get people thinking that just because you’re homeless, you don’t deserve people being nice to you. They just think you’re automatically bad. That’s why I want to help.”

“I normally go out every Christmas, and if I see a homeless person, I’ll get them a blanket and hand stuff out to them. I made little cards, and they say, ‘Storms don’t last forever’, and on the back there are Samaritans and ForFutures numbers.”

Carly and Lia are putting together survival packs with food, toiletries, pillows and blankets, some hats that someone is making, and Carly’s little cards, to hand out to homeless people in Chester and Liverpool. Carly added: “We’re going to try and get some Selection boxes as well because we think that everyone deserves a Christmas present, no matter what situation you’re in.”

Objections To New Homeless Centre In Manchester

Plans to open a shelter near Manchester’s Green Quarter offering homeless men support services and a pathway into living independently have encountered local opposition, reports the Manchester Evening News.

MCR Property Group and the Manchester Homeless Partnership want to provide accommodation for 31 ‘low-risk’ individuals from vacant buildings north of the city centre on Lord Street.

The number of people presenting as homeless in Manchester has reached and is exceeding pre-Covid levels, with thousands – including families and children – living in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts. Under plans submitted to Manchester council, tenants would stay in ensuite bedrooms while also sharing communal lounges, kitchens and meeting spaces.

Staff would be onsite on a 24-hour basis to monitor those staying at the centre, while also helping them to develop skills, search for jobs and apply for benefits. The NHS has also expressed an interest in taking over a proposed healthcare facility within the building, which will only house people assessed as low risk and will not allow self-referrals.

But the scheme, which has been recommended for approval by Manchester council officers, has received 18 objections, mainly from people living in the Green Quarter nearby. In a report going before the planning committee, one objector claimed: “Homelessness accommodation would lead to increased antisocial behaviour and crime. This location is not appropriate next to city centre flats with young professionals and families. It would be detrimental to the quality of life for residents and depress investment in the area.” Other objectors have raised concerns about existing issues of antisocial behaviour relating to rough sleepers, as well as the safety of women walking near the centre.

Manchester council officers say they are satisfied with the operational management plan set out by the applicant, which includes around-the-clock staffing and CCTV. The report also says that the accommodation would be managed by an experienced provider that is already operating in the sector on behalf of MCR Property Group.

A statement provided with the application says: “The proposals support the concept that individuals should be helped to move on to more permanent accommodation and should be steered in the right direction to ensure that homelessness is not repeated. The provision of a clear pathway out of homeless accommodation is acutely recognised by the applicant and within the proposals put forward there is a clear aim for residents of the centre to be provided with the skills and connections in order for them to find a permanent home as soon as possible, a key factor in the success and effectiveness for this level of accommodation.”

All Aboard The Bus!

London buses are being fitted out to help the homeless as winter looms, reports Sky News.

The number of rough sleepers has risen over the past 18 months, with an estimated 130,000 households made homeless because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, two London buses have been fitted out to help the city’s thousands of homeless people as winter approaches. Driving For Change will offer free GP consultations, haircuts, dental care, digital and financial literacy training, and help to open a bank account where appropriate.

Camel Ezel, the founder of Change Please, the coffee shop and social enterprise behind the idea, called it “the next step in tackling the homelessness crisis in England”. He hopes the buses can make the winter months easier for those who have no place to stay, and that the idea can be used in other cities and countries.

He said: “We believe in sustainable approaches to ending homelessness and Driving For Change will give the most vulnerable people the opportunity to access crucial services which can guide and support them in changing their lives long-term. We hope to take the project nationwide and then internationally to achieve maximum impact – discussions around Paris and Los Angeles have already begun.”

The number of rough sleepers has risen over the past 18 months, with an estimated 130,000 households made homeless because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is despite some government interventions earlier in the pandemic – the ban on evictions, increases to universal credit, and the furlough scheme. Mr Ezel said: “We’re now going into the cold months when you see the most deaths out on the streets, so we really need to try and find people, working with local partners and local charities so we can get to people as urgently as we can.”

Thomas Noble is among those who have been helped by Change Please. Mr Noble arrived in the UK three years ago, having been deported from the US after a one-year jail sentence for drug trafficking. He found himself alone in London with an addiction to pain-killing narcotics after a car crash. He was sleeping rough for about a month before learning about the social enterprise and retraining as a barista.

The transition would have been easier if the buses had been available, he said, adding: “If you go into a GP or something and you’re off the street, people are going to look at you. That’s not a good feeling for anybody. They don’t want to feel that way, but they’ve not been given a chance. There will be no judgement: you step on that bus and they’ve got you. If this was there when I started, things would be even better than they are now.”

Mr Noble is now off painkillers and working five days a week at Change Please’s sister company Spike + Earl. He also works weekends for Change Please in London’s Borough Market and Victoria Market. He earns the London living wage of £10.20 an hour, lives in an apartment, has paid time off and plans for the future. Your vanilla frappuccino from Starbucks is always the same,” he added. But with Change Please, you actually have somebody who appreciates the fact that you stopped to get some coffee from them that’s going to be good. For me, it’s a win-win.”

Change Please is also working with Community Dental Services CIC to fit out the bus with a mobile clinic where people can receive treatment. Lorraine Mattis, the organisation’s director said: “We are delighted to be part of the Driving For Change initiative, bringing much needed oral health care directly to homeless people building on our experience in mobile dentistry and supporting the oral health of vulnerable people. It is fantastic to see social enterprises working together in an innovative way like this to directly address social need.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “Tackling homelessness is a priority for the Government and we’re spending an unprecedented £750m this year as part of our commitment to end rough sleeping during this parliament. We have made huge progress to bring rough sleepers off the streets during the pandemic and helped over 37,000 people into safe and secure accommodation, including 26,000 who have already moved into longer-term accommodation.”

Liverpool To Benefit From Government Pledge To End Rough Sleeping

Liverpool will be one of the city’s involved in a pilot project aimed at ending rough sleeping by 2024, the Government has said.

According to a report in the Liverpool Echo, the £16 million scheme is aimed at supporting homeless people after being discharged from hospital. The Government hopes it will reduce pressure on the NHS and help people who are homeless find accommodation, with part of the programme aimed at ‘ending rough sleeping by 2024’. The cycle of people leaving hospital and returning to the streets, only to be quickly readmitted to hospital, is the main objective of the pilot project.

The government said patients who are homeless in hospital are more than twice as likely to be readmitted to hospital in an emergency compared with patients with housing. Adding: “A study of nearly 3,000 homeless patients discharged after an emergency admission from 78 hospitals between 2013 and 2016 revealed almost 2,000 were readmitted within a year, at almost double the rate of those with homes to go to.”

The pilots will run in 17 areas of the UK, including Liverpool, and aim to offer improved services to help some of the most vulnerable members of society with basic needs such as housing, employment and drug dependency. People experiencing rough sleeping on average die 30 years earlier than the general population and the estimated number of those dying each year has risen by about 50% in less than a decade, according to official statistics.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “No one should ever have to sleep rough – extra support will ensure those who do not have a home can get the help they need, recover more quickly and end the cycle of readmission to hospital. This government has proven its commitment to helping people experiencing homelessness throughout this pandemic, providing temporary accommodation and priority vaccines.

He added: “These pilot schemes will show how much more effective care can be when it’s integrated and the best examples will be taken forward to help tackle homelessness across the country.”

Keep Everyone In For Good

Listening to Michael Gove’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference gave us the opportunity to understand how he views his new role as the Minister in charge of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. But worryingly, homelessness didn’t get a mention, writes Jenny Corbett, Policy Manager at Homeless Link.

The 2021 Comprehensive Spending Review – scheduled for October 2021 gives us a vital opportunity to ensure that ending rough sleeping, something the Conservatives pledged to deliver by the end of this parliament, doesn’t slip from the agenda. This review will set government departmental budgets over the next three years. Homeless Link’s submission to the Review makes the case for what is needed to ensure the government keeps its promise.

‘Everyone In’ showed how effective universal, unconditional support is in tackling homelessness, uniting organisations and driving innovation. But the temporary housing solutions offered to many were, by definition, temporary. Along with the continued fall out of the pandemic, the end of the Universal Credit uplift, end of furlough and closure of many Everyone In schemes means we are approaching a ‘perfect storm’ that will leave increasing numbers of people facing homelessness.

We need a stable, robust homelessness sector to face these challenges and we need long-term commitments from government to ensure progress made is not lost. You can help ensure that government Ministers don’t forget their pledge to end rough sleeping, please email your MP and ask them to support our submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review. You can find template letters to do this here: https://www.homeless.org.uk/our-work/campaigns/everyoneinforgood.

Homeless Link is calling for government to:

  1. Match enhanced investment in rough sleeping services during COVID-19 with a £132.5 million annual boost to the Rough Sleeping Initiative through to 2024/25, compared to 2021/22 levels. Deliver this through a simplified and long-term, guaranteed grant programme to local authorities.

A recent poll of Homeless Link members showed that 75% of responding members find short-term funding negatively impacts on the quality of their service, and 83% state that it leads to inconsistent support for people experiencing homelessness.

A renewed strategy to end rough sleeping and tackle homelessness must provide a long-term, multi-year settlement to enable the development of sustainable and effective services that people can rely upon. The funding must be coordinated, streamlined and cross-departmental, to improve efficiency and reduce the burden on local authorities and services. The government must also sustain its move away from the funding cuts of the past decade.

  1. Commit £150.3 million annually for an initial three years for a national Housing First programme, led by the DLUHC but with cross-departmental investment and stewardship. Extend the funding commitment to the regional Housing First Pilots for a further three years.

Current provision of high-fidelity Housing First falls far short of need. It’s estimated that at least 16,450 Housing First places are needed by people with the most complex needs, but only 1,995 are available. We are calling for a national, cross-departmental Housing First programme, initially funded over the next three years, to roll out and expand Housing First in areas where it is needed. In addition, government should extend their investment in the regional pilots in order to preserve the impressive progress made and protect residents from the approaching funding cliff edge.

  1. Commit to a ten-year investment plan to realise the 90,000 social rent homes that England needs per year.

A lack of appropriate, affordable housing is one of the biggest causes of homelessness. It can also trap people in homelessness and prevent them from moving on from temporary accommodation. Over the long-term, the most cost-effective means to meet the scale of need for truly affordable homes is through the increased provision of homes for social rent. Research undertaken on behalf of Crisis and the National Housing Federation found that in order to meet the backlog ,90,000 social homes would need to be built a year over a 15-year period.

  1. Unfreeze the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) so that it continues to cover at least the 30th percentile of local rents.

It is vital that housing benefit sufficiently covers the cost of private rented accommodation. With evictions having resumed, there are concerns across Homeless Link’s membership that the growth of rent arrears and LHA set at inadequate levels will lead to a potential huge wave of individuals being pushed into homelessness.

In addition to these priorities, our full submission includes crucial measures needed to tackle the needs of young people and women facing homelessness, as well as asks to better support the sector to tackle homelessness among non-UK nationals.

‘Spend Local’ Vouchers For The Homeless

Homeless people and asylum seekers in Northern Ireland will be able to apply for a £100 high street voucher through “trusted partners” this month, reports the BBC.

Organisations helping the homeless community and people in temporary accommodation can apply on their behalf for a pre-paid card. The organisations will collect application details of individuals who do not have a permanent address and the ‘Spend Local’ card must be used in shops before 30 November. Meanwhile, a phone application service will open on 11 October for anyone who does not have access to the internet.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said the phone line may be slightly busy at the start although he expects most applications will continue to be online. “This is another way to try to catch everybody we can,” he told BBC Radio Ulster. Mr Lyons said he had been hugely encouraged by the response to the scheme after the first 100,000 cards were issued. He urged people to use their cards and said any unspent cards would be returned to the economic recovery action plan.

The £145m scheme is designed to boost activity in businesses hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, like non-essential retail and hospitality. The Department for the Economy said it expects to receive applications from organisations that work with asylum seekers and the homeless community by 25 October. Their details will then be sent to the card provider and cards will be “distributed as soon as possible thereafter”. It is then the responsibility of those organisations to distribute the prepaid cards to their service users.

The Welcome Organisation provides support for people affected by homelessness in Belfast, as well as crisis accommodation for vulnerable women. Jo Daykin-Goodall, its chief executive, said the voucher “will give those people a financial uplift that they wouldn’t normally have”. “They’re as entitled as anyone else to it and we’re delighted to be a part of ensuring they have access to it,” she said. “Homeless people live on the poverty line – they don’t know where their next meal is coming from and a lot don’t have very many items.”

She added that “quite a number of people have contacted us” wanting to use their £100 prepaid card to support services provided by the Welcome Organisation. “We have a wish list available with underwear, sleeping bags, food items that we need – that list will be available to members of the public who ask for it,” she said.

Ms Daykin-Goodall said the Welcome Organisation will use its headquarters’ address when applying on behalf of service users who do not have a permanent home. “We will be focusing on rough sleepers and people who are sofa surfing, living in squats or in non-standard and temporary accommodation who require help.” She said caseworkers and support workers are aiding the homeless “to help them decide on spending the money wisely”. “I expect a lot will use it for clothes or footwear for winter.”

Nicola McCrudden, who heads up the Council for the Homeless, said it is important “that individuals experiencing homelessness are able to exercise their entitlement to the £100 pre-paid card”. “This money can be a lifeline for many, including families, and can help towards basic necessities like food, clothing and fuel costs. People experiencing homelessness often find it difficult to access services because they don’t have a permanent address.” She said its members who provide homelessness services are working with the Department for the Economy to ensure that service users receive their cards.

There were 3,402 households in temporary accommodation in Northern Ireland as of August this year. Within these households, there were 3,596 children living in temporary accommodation. There were 8,610 people who presented themselves as homeless in Northern Ireland between January and June 2021. Almost anyone aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland can apply for a Spend Local card – about 1.4m people will be eligible. Prisoners are not entitled to a voucher.

Shop Assistant Helps Homeless Man

An ASDA worker has been hailed as a hero after helping a homeless man outside a supermarket find a place to stay.

The employee, called Debbie, was praised by her bosses for her response to the man in a desperate situation outside the South Yorkshire store she works in. Debbie has been showered with praise after ASDA shared the touching story with shoppers online.

The supermarket chain wrote: “When our colleague Debbie saw a homeless man sat on the kerb by our Wath Upon Dearne supermarket she knew she couldn’t walk by without helping him. After chatting to him and discovering that he’d been living rough for two weeks in a tent and was hungry, Debbie went into the store, bought him some food and a drink and grabbed an umbrella as it was raining.”

“She knew of someone who was allowing their caravan to be used as a temporary shelter free of charge for homeless people so she contacted them and arranged for him to stay there until he spoke to housing charities and got somewhere more permanent.”

Thousands of shoppers have praised Debbie for her actions, the Manchester Evening News reports. Responding to the story, one person said: “Well done, you’re obviously a caring lady and it’s refreshing to know the milk of human kindness still flows.” “Such a lovely act of kindness Debbie,” wrote a second.

A third person commented: “A really nice gesture Debbie well done for making a difference.” “Throw kindness around like confetti, well done you special girl,” said yet another impressed shopper.

A fifth exclaimed: “Debbie what a lovely young lady you are to do so much for this poor man, so well done you, a true Samaritan. Bless you for all you did for him, so glad he came back to thank you later, shows how much your kindness and efforts on his behalf meant to him.”

ASDA store manager Shane, who nominated Debbie for an ASDA customer service award, said: “A lot of people would have just walked past and not stopped, but not Debbie. She’s a very kind-hearted person and will do anything for anyone. The man, who was in his early twenties, came into store to thank Debbie and to reassure her that he was okay and now had somewhere to stay. Well done Debbie, you’re an outstanding colleague.”

Homeless Charity Gets Royal Approval

The Duke of Cambridge helped hand out gongs at the 40th birthday of homeless charity The Passage in Victoria, London.

He was also reunited with two former homeless people who have found jobs thanks to the charity. And in a speech William fondly recalled the trips he made to The Passage with Princess Diana when he was “just a small boy”.

William recognised Nomonde Mkhwanazi, 49, who he previously met before she transformed her life and now she is training to be an NHS nurse. William said: “You’ve not changed. I do remember you. Really nice to see you and look at you now. It is so important, this service. You are smiling more than you were last time you had your cap down and now you are smiling. I’m so pleased that things are getting better for you, really pleased.”

He also spotted Colin Chilman, 56, from a previous visit, who is now working in a central London restaurant. Colin remembers the Duke visiting the Passage with his mother Princess Diana and Harry when they were boys. William said: “Colin, what a journey. Well done I am so pleased it’s going well.” He later presented the duo with their Outstanding Achievement awards at a short ceremony. Afterwards, in a speech, the Duke congratulated all the winners.

He added: “Everyone has played their part and done incredible things. Your dedication and determination are remarkable and you should all be extremely proud of your achievements. All of you in this room – whether you are clients, staff, volunteers, partners or supporters – are what makes this place so very special.”

Wiliam took over as royal patron from his mother Princess Diana in 2019. He told the ceremony: “Over the many years that I have visited The Passage, first with my mother when I was just a small boy, I have developed a great affection for everyone who is here. Every time I come here, I am touched by your warmth and friendliness and the dignity and respect you show to every single person who comes through your door. I am always so impressed to see and hear the difference that The Passage makes to the lives of people who are experiencing homelessness.

“And I find it particularly inspiring to meet former clients who were helped by The Passage’s wonderful staff and volunteers in their time of need and who have come back to help others now that they are doing much better themselves. The last 18 months of the pandemic have shown us how much we rely on each other to get by – and just how strong our communities can be when we work together to get things done.”

“Initiatives like ‘Everyone In’ have kept those who are at risk of homelessness safe. And as we emerge from the pandemic, we now need to continue that collaboration to prevent and end homelessness. Thank you to everyone here at The Passage for all your continuing efforts in this life-changing work and enjoy a very belated happy 40th.” The Passage opened in 1980 and its 40th birthday party was postponed 12 months due to Covid.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Chilman described how he used The Passage for 35 years. He has been working as a kitchen porter for the past two and half years in a West End restaurant Carousel after the charity put him through a hotel training course. He said: “I remember seeing Diana many years ago and she was with her boys. They were so young. I also met William several years ago but I had a long beard.”

“I’m well happy to win this and extra special to get it from William. I just did what I did. From being an alcoholic I quit all that I went through a bad time and thankful for what has happened. It was 35 years ago and it changed my life. When I started the Hotel School I didn’t think I was going to last a day, but The Passage has changed my life.” He was also given help getting accommodation and beating his alcoholism.

Ms Mkhwanazi, 49, was referred from hospital in March 2016. She was homeless and suicidal with mental health issues fighting extradition to South Africa. The charity helped her get a flat and train for the NHS. She said: “The Passage accepted me and they were kind. Now I want to give back as a nurse in the NHS. Without the Passage I would have given up hope. I don’t feel worthy of getting this from Prince William but they say I am a role model for others in similar situations.”

The Passage runs residential and resettlement projects, health services, homelessness prevention schemes and a modern slavery referral programme. Mick Clarke, chief executive of The Passage, said to William: “Thanks for the support you give and the time, often without the cameras. Thank you for the care and compassion.”

Since being established, they have helped almost 135,000 people to end their homelessness for good. The Duke became Royal Patron in February 2019, having visited The Passage numerous times over the previous years with his mother. Di also took William and Harry onto London’s streets to see rough sleepers when they were boys. The event was due to take place last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.

At the height of the crisis the charity set up an emergency food hub, preparing and delivering 350 hot meals daily for people self-isolating in temporary accommodation. The hub was resourced by volunteers working seven days a week and has supplied over 94,000 meals.