The Salvation Army says that homelessness and rough sleeping will soar if the government fails to properly fund homelessness support services in this Autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).
The charity has released a report warning that the economic consequences of the pandemic will increase rough sleeping and force families into expensive and unsuitable temporary accommodation, like bed and breakfast, as local authorities struggle to manage rising homelessness levels.
The report, ‘Future-Proof the Roof’ offers solutions to help sustain the amazing progress that’s been made in recent months, while helping to prevent growing rates of rough sleeping and homelessness in the future.
A spokesman for the Salvation Army said this would protect thousands of vulnerable people while investing in homelessness now will avoid spiralling costs in the future. Typical avoidable costs include expensive temporary accommodation, which just last year cost local authorities close to £1bn.
In July, the government outlined how it would prioritise spending its approach to this Autumn’s CSR.
The Salvation Army is concerned that the ‘tough choices’ rhetoric used in the announcement could mean that homelessness and rough sleeping services suffer from funding cuts, similar to those made by the damaging austerity budget of 2010.
Lorrita Johnson, director of homelessness services, said: ‘It’s not too late to stop a massive increase in homelessness and rough sleeping caused by the current economic downturn.
‘Bold government moves like the furlough scheme, temporary protection from eviction and emergency accommodation for rough sleepers saved lives and ensured thousands still had a home.
‘However, our report demonstrates that if the Government mirrors the austerity approach it took during the last economic crisis, there will be dire consequences for rough sleepers, private renters and the economy as a whole.
‘Our report Future-Proof the Roof outlines alternatives to the austerity measures that came into force post-2010 and could be reintroduced following the upcoming spending review.
‘If they act now, the government will protect thousands of people from either returning to the streets and prevent many children being raised in cramped and unhealthy temporary accommodation.’
Future Proof the Roof outlines a number of specific solutions including:
- Improve data collection. Unless we’re accurately able to assess the number of people rough sleeping, their needs and household type, the level of investment will never accurately match the level of need. Introducing CHAIN  (Combined Homeless and Information Network) style systems in urban areas with high levels of demand will help with this.
- Commit to a sustained level investment to build on the progress made during the outbreak of Covid-19. After years of underinvestment throughout the 2010s, the Government must commit to at least maintain the rate of investment in 2020/21 across the course of the current parliament. That’s £686m annually for the next three to four years.
- Use the upcoming CSR to begin implementing a new approach to investment in homelessness and rough sleeping. For example, in addition to stabilising levels of investment over the course of the current parliament, the Government should look to introduce a simple fiscal rule that if rough sleeping figures are stable or increasing, investment cannot be reduced, or we risk undoing any progress made and people returning to the streets.
- Provide a steady supply of suitable homes. Build on the excellent ‘Next Steps Accommodation Programme’ by acquiring homes from a range of sources to meet the urgent need with close to 15,000 people requiring new homes. This includes large numbers of one-bedroom properties to ensure schemes like Housing First are sustainable and introducing a new Empty Homes Programmes for people with experience of rough sleeping and new construction techniques to improve the supply of modular homes.
Responding to the report, a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said:
‘The Government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic, including providing financial support to enable tenants to pay their living expenses and their rent, and this has helped ensure no one was forced from their home.
‘New court rules will provide appropriate support to those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus when court proceedings start again, with landlords required to set out information about a tenant’s circumstances, including the effect of the pandemic on a tenant’s vulnerability, when bringing a possession claim.
‘We’re committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and to ending rough sleeping for good. That’s why we changed the law so councils now have a duty to try to stop people from becoming homeless and have provided over half a billion pounds to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in 2020 and 2021.’
Photo Credit – Pixabay