Campaigning during crisis: Helping those losing work and living in unstable housing

Campaigning during crisis: Helping those losing work and living in unstable housing

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged us to react quickly. We’ve had to move swiftly to campaign on the issues we’re seeing come through our helpline, so that more people can stay in their homes and stay safe.

To do this, we’ve needed to be able to speak to decision makers, fellow campaigners, and the public about why these issues needed to be addressed right now.

It’s been a fast-moving and difficult time. Through our services, we’ve heard about dangerous situations people are facing, and – if we’re honest – it’s been incredibly difficult to know how and what to prioritise.

From what we were seeing and hearing, we knew:

  • people were going to lose their jobs and the safety net there to catch them wasn’t strong enough, putting many at risk of debt and homelessness
  • people were living in cramped accommodation, unable to self-isolate – a huge threat to their health
  • people were facing eviction, and without being able to find anywhere else to live, were risking choosing between homelessness and their health.
  • about the threat of domestic violence increasing, and how the benefit cap acts as a significant financial barrier meaning people are unable to leave these awful situations
  • people who were rough sleeping were at a significant risk and needed to be housed

And more issues kept flooding in. As a campaigner, it’s difficult when so many issues must be worked on at once as we know from experience that the best way to change something is to go to decision makers with a clear, single ask that’s backed up with evidence.

How we responded

So far, over 36,000 people have supported our campaign calling on the government to make sure everyone has a safe home during the pandemic.

We focused on banning evictions and moved swiftly to work with the government to temporarily ban evictions by extending notices and then pushed them to go further and close courts.

Following this success, we highlighted how difficult it is to be one of the 5,400 homeless families in temporary accommodation right now, and are pushing the government to help at-risk homeless families in one-room and/or shared accommodation, especially those who include family members particularly vulnerable to the virus.

We welcomed the government’s move to implement emergency measures to safeguard those people who are sleeping rough, and we worked with other charities to push the government to return housing benefit to its previous level of covering the cost of 3 in 10 homes, something which they have since committed to.

But we know there’s so much more to do – especially on making sure people don’t run up rent arrears or debt because of losing work. If they do, the country could face a homelessness crisis.

What’s next?

Our latest research shows that 1.7 million renters expect to lose their jobs over the next three months. Since lockdown began, over 1.4 million more people have already had to apply for Universal Credit.

This illustrates just how many more people are urgently in need of the support of housing benefit to help them pay their rent and stay in their homes. But we know this benefit is simply not enough and at present only covers the cost of 3 in 10 homes.

If people can’t pay their rent or move to an affordable property, the country faces a large increase in rent arrears, a rising tide of evictions, and a homelessness crisis when the current temporary ban on evictions ends. 

That’s why we’ve written an open letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for change, which over 20,000 people have already signed.

We’re asking him to make sure people can afford to stay safe in their homes by:

  • increasing housing benefit to cover the average cost of renting across the country
  • lifting the benefit cap so everyone can access the emergency funding they need

And to make sure he hears this call, we’re now calling on people to email their MP directly, asking them to write to the Chancellor directly on their behalf.

Without supporters like you lending us their voices, we aren’t able to bring attention to these vital issues. So we’d like to say thank you to everyone who has already campaigned with us during this difficult time.

We know there’s much more to do, both to keep people safe right now, but also to address the underlying issues of unaffordable and unstable housing in the future. We hope we can count on your support to help people struggling with homelessness, unstable housing, and paying rent in the coming weeks.

You can help us raise these issues today. Please email your MP and ask them to write to the Chancellor.