Lessons to learn from ‘Everyone In’
Today, our research reveals what’s happened to the 37,000 people the government says were helped by its ‘Everyone In’ scheme in England. Following on from the Kerslake Commission report, we hope our evidence will contribute to a fresh government strategy to meet its election promise to end rough sleeping by 2024.
As the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) was declared, the government took unprecedented action in protecting people living on England’s streets: £3.2m of dedicated funding combined with a clear ministerial instruction to get ‘everyone in’ by the weekend. Who they were, or why they were experiencing the indignity of a life on the street, no longer mattered. Lives needed to be saved.
This was a highly commendable ambition by government, which was actioned by a huge effort from city-region and local authorities, homeless support agencies and even the hotel and university sectors. It’s predicted that many lives were saved.
The first step in any drive to end homelessness must, of course, be to get people off the streets. No progressive country can justify people living on the streets. And certainly not during a historic pandemic.
Stage 1: protect
The first stage in any roadmap to end rough sleeping must be to protect people. This can be done by offering everyone at risk of rough sleeping a safe emergency bed, where they don’t put others at risk of airborne infections, such as flu or coronavirus. Anecdotal evidence suggests street homeless people are less likely to be fully vaccinated. To protect health, this approach should certainly continue until the pandemic is declared over.
While ‘Everyone In’ helped thousands off the streets, more people end up there every week. As long ago as 1803, a judge remarked that the underlying law of humanity means they require protection.
Stage 1: The government must clearly instruct councils to continue to provide emergency accommodation to everyone at risk of rough sleeping for at least the duration of the pandemic and make sure they have the funds to pay for it, including for people with no recourse to public funds.
Stage 2: prevent
The next stage is more complicated. Because, if people are helped off the streets without addressing the barriers that caused them to be there, more people will simply take their place. This is what happened after ‘Everyone In’ began – until government reported 37,000 people were provided with emergency accommodation but 2,700 remained on the streets in Autumn 2020.
Equally, for people to move on from emergency accommodation provided directly by the state, they must overcome the same barriers that put them on the street in the first place, including:
- Having no right to rent or being wrongly believed to
- Having no right to public funds even if legally working and paying tax
- Having insufficient housing benefit to pass a tenancy affordability check
- Having a rental refused due to discrimination or lack of a guarantor
- Having a need for support to understand rights and options, recover from trauma, become healthier and deal with the challenges of living in homeless accommodation. It can be very stressful.
Our February 2021 Freedom of Information (FOI) research shows that:
- 77% of people had not moved on to a settled tenancy (of at least six months), including those still in emergency accommodation. A disproportionate number remaining in emergency accommodation had no recourse to public funds, so weren’t eligible for homelessness assistance or housing benefit to cover rent
- Almost one in four (23%) people initially helped were recorded as no longer accommodated, meaning they could have returned to the streets
Stage 2: If we’re to prevent more people becoming homeless, and make sure people in temporary accommodation can move on into their own tenancy, we need to properly evaluate and address the barriers.
Stage 3: build
Homelessness can only be ended if people have access to suitable, secure homes, which they can sustain. Without a settled, self-contained home it’s very difficult for people to start to address physical and mental health problems, including addictions.
Having a secure home makes it much easier to register with a GP and be referred to specialist health (including vaccinations) and support services.
We applaud the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s (MHCLG) recognition of this in the £433 million Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme. But the ambition should be to deliver new permanent and affordable homes, rather than transitional two-year tenancies, which can leave people with a sense of continued insecurity. The road back from street homelessness can be very tough and take a long time. Stability is key. In Finland, Housing First is successful because it’s built more than 1,500 permanent homes.
Stage 3: We need investment in secure social housing rather than burgeoning year-on-year funding of expensive temporary accommodation. MHCLG should roll out capital funding for new-build Housing First schemes. The 1990s Conservative government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative delivered 4,000 new homes in London for former rough sleepers.
Stage 4: support
Our case evidence shows that people can lose or leave accommodation when they hit bumps in the road, particularly at times of isolation and mental health crisis. People need adequate support to help them off the streets and into a settled home to avoid the risk of returning to another cycle of street homelessness and worsening health.
Stage 4: MHCLG must invest in long-term homelessness support services, which offer on-site or floating support to people in homeless accommodation, as well as private and social tenancies. Housing-related support prevents repeat homelessness and helps people access healthcare.
With both the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Housing personally committed to ending rough sleeping, we now have a real chance to end it. ‘Everyone In’ showed that with political will and adequate funding, it’s certainly possible.