Updated plan to tackle homelessness
The shared vision to end homelessness and rough sleeping has not changed during the pandemic but our determination has increased. Fundamentally we want everyone to have a warm safe home to live in and so for anyone affected by homelessness we want them to have access to the housing and support they need.
The emergency accommodation arrangements we’ve used over the summer to protect people from coronavirus were necessary but always a temporary measure, not a long-term solution. We have been working hard to support everyone out of these arrangements and into settled accommodation.
That’s why I asked Jon Sparkes of Crisis to reconvene the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) to guide us on what we need to do now and in the future to end homelessness in light of Covid-19.
I am very grateful to HARSAG members for their swift work, commitment to ending homelessness and expert guidance on navigating our way through the pandemic and into recovery. Their comprehensive recommendations alongside our existing plans for tackling homelessness have led to an updated Ending Homelessness Together action plan, which we published jointly with CoSLA yesterday.
The updated plan shows where we are already delivering on many of the recommendations that relate to the current public health emergency. For example, we have:
- provided over £1.5 million to third sector organisations to fund hotel accommodation for people who were rough sleeping
- introduced legislation to protect renters from eviction
- brought forward plans so that everyone experiencing homelessness has access to suitable quality accommodation
- provided funds to prevent homelessness and destitution among people who have no recourse to public funds
- supported local authorities with rapid rehousing transition plans so that ‘rapid rehousing by default’ is at the centre of their recovery plans.
Our aim now is to draw on what we have learned, retain our collective strength and achieve our goal of eradicating rough sleeping and ending homelessness. To that end, we have committed to a range of new actions in the updated plan.
We want to phase out night shelters and dormitory-style provision and so to support this transition, we are establishing rapid rehousing welcome centres. The centres will provide emergency accommodation for people who have no other options, encouraging them to move on to other services. They will also offer targeted support, including for wellbeing, health and social care issues, legal rights, employment and welfare.
We are placing even greater emphasis on the prevention of homelessness. We have put in place a raft of measures to support people to remain in their homes and prevent rent arrears, from legislation to minimise the risk of evictions into homelessness to increased funding for crisis grants and discretionary housing payments. We are also introducing a hardship loan fund for tenants.
Equality is the thread that runs through our plan. We will strengthen the voice of lived experience in the policy-making process, advance legislative protections for people experiencing domestic abuse and explore alternative routes to reduce migrant homelessness.
Preventing homelessness is about more than finding somewhere to live: it’s about providing people with a sense of security that comes with having a home.