COVID-19 has prompted a radical and rapid nationwide shift in responses to some of the most extreme forms of homelessness. With government financial support and guidance, local authorities have sought to get ‘Everyone In’ as rough sleeping in England has been reframed as an urgent public health issue, and emergency measures have sought to prevent other forms of homelessness as well.
This briefing by Crisis reflects on the early lessons from the crisis response, and looks ahead to the exit strategy. In particular, it found:
- Levels of infection seem very low amongst homeless people accommodated under the ‘Everyone In’ initiative, indicating a relatively successful public health strategy with regards to this vulnerable population.
- The speed and clarity of the early central Government response on rapidly accommodating people sleeping rough, eliminating the use of communal shelters, enhancing welfare benefits, and halting evictions, was widely welcomed, with local authorities and homelessness charities also praised for rapidly rising to an unprecedented challenge.
- However, the (understandable) emphasis given to immediate crisis response during the COVID-19 pandemic has squeezed out prevention activity at many levels, and a ‘spike’ in family homelessness in particular is expected as the evictions ban and furlough schemes come to an end.