"A massive opportunity"
We can end rough sleeping.
In her recent letter to local authority homelessness managers and rough sleeping co-ordinators, Dame Louise Casey praised the work that had been done to ensure people rough sleeping had ‘the same chances as other vulnerable people to self-isolate and receive the same care, protection and treatment [as other vulnerable people] where necessary.’
Praise for all involved is well deserved. The recent drive has led to an estimated 5,400 rough sleepers being offered accommodation in just under a month - 90% of known people. To put in context, the number of people rough sleeping increased by 141% between 2010 and the end of 2019, despite a decrease of 9% between 2018 and 2019.
The requirement for social distancing measures has focused many minds on how important it is to public health that individuals are appropriately housed. Resource has been needed, and a further £1.6 billion has been promised to councils, part of which can be used ‘to support rough sleepers off the street and from communal shelters.’ But this is money well spent - Crisis figures from 2018 estimate that for every £1 spent moving people directly out of homelessness, an estimated £2.80 is generated in cashable savings and well-being benefits.
The last month has shown that we have the capability to end rough sleeping. Past work and the present conditions gives us the tools and opportunity to do so.
Over the last few years, some areas have seen dramatic improvements in how support is provided to people who have experienced multiple disadvantages.
People who have ‘walked the walk’ have stood alongside others to break down the barriers faced trying to access services that are based on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. People with lived experience have worked in partnership with local agencies such as DWP, Housing, Probation and the voluntary sector to reduce the number of people falling through the gaps.
The current rapid housing of people into B n B’s and hotels has opened up opportunities for services that previously failed to reach people, meet people where they are.
“The drug team, outreach, have been amazing. They’ve been going in with needle exchange stuff, naloxone, safety boxes for methadone,…It’s just a brilliant opportunity.”
The commonality of these approaches has been the development of effective, trusting relationships, providing the support that people need where they need it. It is vital that all work being done must embody this.
“Are they getting the right support? Are their thoughts and feelings being listened too?... If people don’t get listened to now, they’re going to be mis-placed again, and then we’ll all be in the same boat.”
“If we’ve got people taken off the street, we really need to be building up that relationship with people, looking at what those move-on options are…You forever hear about the distrust of services, the distrust of support. If we’re not careful, we’re going to get another generation of this… especially now we do have a window of opportunity to engage.”
Big decisions will need to be made by national and local Government on how we can give people the housing and support they need to keep everybody safe.
To do this, the full range of housing options will need to be explored, looking at the private and social rented sector and the use of traditional homelessness spaces in an era of social distancing. At its core this will require increasing the affordability of housing to address the disconnect between the price of renting and the amount available through the benefit system. Support, the value of which has now become clear to all, will need to tailored to provide people what they need, when they need it.
"If it’s not done properly, then people will be back on the streets… and then we’re back to where we were before.”
The incredible work has provided us a massive opportunity to end rough sleeping. We can and must take it.