Hundreds of homeless people housed during the first Covid-19 wave were pushed back on to the street because of a lack of support, research shows.
The Everyone In programme, introduced last March, required all councils, including the Greater London Authority (GLA), to place rough sleepers into emergency housing such as hotels. In July, ministers said local authorities would be granted funding to “prevent those housed under the scheme from returning to the streets”.
However, a report by the London Assembly Housing Committee (LAHC) reveals more than one in five rough sleepers placed in hotels by the GLA under the Everyone In scheme ended up leaving the accommodation because they weren’t able to access the right level of support.
While the scheme was successful in helping many individuals move into more settled accommodation, 374 out of almost 1,700 who were housed under the scheme by the GLA were either evicted (138) or abandoned the hotels (236) due to “unmet support needs”, the committee said.
The true figure is likely to be higher, because local authorities in London also housed thousands of rough sleepers.
It comes after The Independent revealed last week that thousands of people housed under the Everyone In scheme across England during the first national lockdown have since slipped off the radar, with many having abandoned the hotels because they felt isolated and unsupported.
The government claims that two-thirds of the 29,000 rough sleepers who were housed under the scheme have been moved into “settled accommodation” – defined as a tenancy of at least six months either in the private sector or with a housing association or council.
But an analysis of data obtained by The Independent from local councils in England found that more than half were still in hotels, had been moved into other emergency housing or were no longer being supported by the council – including more than a fifth who had either been evicted from emergency accommodation or recorded as leaving on their own terms.
Tony McKenzie, who works for Crisis in London, told the LAHC that more focus on the experiences of the rough sleepers would have improved the situation and prevented so many from falling back into homelessness.
“Some people did drift back to the streets and I think had we asked people what was needed, what was the best fit, we would have had less of a drift,” he said.
Jon Glackin, founder of London-based support group Streets Kitchen, told The Independent he had come across a lot of rough sleepers in the capital who had left Everyone In accommodation due to a lack of support.
“The only way it works properly is if you can accommodate people and put the support in. You can put them into a hotel room but the novelty soon wears off. They need support more than anything,” he added.
The report notes that the GLA was starting from a “difficult point with a lack of supported hostel provision in London to begin with”, as ring-fencing for support funding ended in 2009, leading to a decline in resources over the past decade.
The committee called for the incoming mayor to advocate for long-term ring-fenced funding for support services as part of next year’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
The report also warned of a lack of specialist homelessness support for certain groups from whom lockdown put additional pressure on an already insecure housing situation, increasing their risk of being pushed into rough sleeping.
Among these groups are young people – with youth homelessness having increased by 48 per cent in July-September 2020 compared with July-September 2019 – LGBT+ people, individuals from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and survivors of domestic violence.
The committee said the mayor should “urgently” expand specialist, pan-London services for these groups, and consider how equality, diversity and inclusion requirements could be developed to better support homeless people of different backgrounds.
Calling for national leadership from government, Murad Qureshi, chair of the LAHC, said: “People sleeping on the streets need specialised services rather than a one-size-fits-all plan. A person with extreme addictions does not need the same support as someone fleeing domestic abuse."
It comes as campaigners call on the government to re-enact the Everyone In scheme, as Covid cases soar and temperatures drop below freezing most nights.
Tom Copley, deputy mayor for housing and residential development, said: “With freezing temperatures, a fresh spike in coronavirus cases, and a new variant of the virus, it is shameful that ministers have so far refused to provide funding to give every rough sleeper a safe place to stay this winter.”
Responding to concerns that people housed by the GLA hadn’t received adequate support, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said it had adopted a principle whereby once someone has accessed services, they are accommodated until a support plan is in place to end their rough sleeping.
A spokesperson for the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We have taken unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic – backed by over £700m to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone, including an additional £10m in support for rough sleepers during the current national lockdown.
“The ongoing ‘Everyone In’ campaign is protecting thousands of lives. We’ve housed around 33,000 vulnerable people, including supporting 23,000 into settled accommodation or with move on support. We're ensuring councils and voluntary organisations have the tools and funding they need, investing over £750m next year.”
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