Being Homeless During A Pandemic

Posted on: 16 April 2020




In a recent letter to homeless authorities up and down the UK, The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government wrote;


“We are all redoubling our efforts to do what we possibly can at this stage to ensure that everybody is inside and safe by this weekend, and we stand with you in this.


“These are unusual times so I’m asking for an unusual effort. Many areas of the country have already been able to ‘safe harbour’ their people, which is incredible. What we need to do now though is work out how we can get ‘everyone in’.” 


However despite state action many homeless people are still scrambling to survive on the streets of the UK. 


Chief executive of, charity Homeless LinkRick Henderson in a recent interview had said; 


“What will be key in the coming months is that people brought in are not returned to the streets, but that the funding is in place to provide suitable housing and support to enable those rough sleeping to end their homelessness for good. What will be key in the coming months is that people brought in are not returned to the streets, but that the funding is in place to provide suitable”


To date, many rough sleepers have been accommodated successfully in local housing due to the governments £3.2 million injection in a bid to ring fence the most vulnerable in an effort stifle the spread of the virus. Despite the emergency funding however, 45000 “self-contained accommodation spaces” are still required in order to re-house the UK’s homeless community.



Voluntary Acts



As with many aspects of the current situation, acts of kindness and charity haven’t gone amiss when it comes to the problem of homelessness. 300 beds at the Intercontinental Hotels Group (the umbrella group that owns Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Crowne Plaza) have been pre-booked for the next three months and reserved to house rough sleepers in the respective localities. 


Under the government’s national action plan empty offices will also be re-purposed to safe spaces and temporary accommodation so rough sleepers can self isolate successfully.


Figures as of the end of March indicated 62,280 families currently live in temporary accommodation in England – 5,400 of which live in shared spaces which places them at higher risk of infection from the Coronavirus.


Matt Downie, Director of policy and external affairs for homeless charity Crisis, said that whilst the recent move to house many in the homeless community was a welcomed one, too many people were currently “falling through the gaps”. The charity has heard of many rough sleepers suffering even more so now than ever due to the great strain on resources and support services, he said.


“We’ve had reports of people not eating for days now. People on the streets who haven’t made it into hotel accommodation are really struggling because the normal sources of food have gone. We are operating in a few cities and people are scared and they’re hungry and they’re desperate,” Mr Downie continued.


“There is a range of practice across local councils. Some are doing great things, others aren’t, but it’s vital that every single local authority has a complete offer for every single person who needs it. 


“There can’t be a gap in that, because a gap means we’re okay leaving people to die on the streets or night shelters. We’ve got to be extremely vigilant against any complacency or self-congratulation, and make sure that every single person who needs help gets it.” he said.


“And the reasons people become homeless are still in place. We may see increased numbers of people becoming homeless because of people losing their jobs during this crisis. There will be a proportion of people waiting for universal credit who may fall into homelessness. We can’t just say it’s over. This has to be a continued operation."


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