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Crisis calls for emergency legislation to protect against homelessness during pandemic


National homelessness charity Crisis this week launched proposed emergency legislation to the government, calling for measures over the next 12 months to protect people from homelessness during the current pandemic and prevent it afterwards.

The legislation, which has been drafted by Garden Court Chambers for Crisis, was presented at the charity’s virtual parliamentary reception earlier this week to launch their ‘Home for All’ campaign. The event was chaired by Bob Blackman MP and was attended by representatives across the political parties and homelessness charities across the country.

There has been unprecedented effort from the government to provide safe emergency accommodation to people experiencing homelessness in recent months, with nearly 15,000
people across England helped so far. Just last week, the government announced £105 million in funding to help further support those in emergency accommodation into more longer-term housing.

Despite this, there is concern across homelessness charities that the good progress made will be undermined if the current legal barriers remain in place.

Current legislation means that people experiencing, or at risk of homelessness, have no legal right to this emergency accommodation - and that some are in danger of being locked out of homelessness assistance due to the conditions of their immigration status or their connection to the local area. Without amendments, we could see people left homeless while the public health crisis is ongoing, with councils uncertain of the support they should be providing to people in different circumstances.

Additionally, with the suspension on evictions due to end in late August, charities fear tens of thousands of renters could be pushed into homelessness.

The legislation proposed by Crisis would provide a clear framework to ensure anyone facing homelessness as a result of the pandemic is entitled to the support needed to prevent them from ending up on the streets.

The key amendments outlined as part of the legislation include:

  • Ensure everyone with nowhere safe to stay has access to emergency accommodation by introducing a duty, backed by funding, for local authorities in England to provide emergency accommodation over the next 12 months.
  • Lift the ‘no recourse to public funds’ restrictions for 12 months for people helped by this legislation to they can access Universal Credit and homelessness assistance.
  • Protect people from being evicted from their homes through no fault of their own if they have been unable to pay their rent as a result of the outbreak. 
  • Suspend the benefit cap to prevent people from becoming homeless if they are unable to return to work in the next few months.

Discussing the legislation, Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “The past few months has seen a phenomenal effort from the government, local councils and homelessness charities to help people off the streets and ensure they have been protected during this pandemic. We know that when given a place to temporarily call their own, many people have been able to thrive, receiving the support they need and getting closer to ending their homelessness for good.

“The government has made tremendous strides towards their aim of ending rough sleeping across England for good. It would be a crying shame if after all this hard work we see people forced into homelessness in the coming months because of arbitrary legal barriers.

“Emergency homelessness legislation is essential to protect people from destitution in this ongoing health emergency. With so many people already experiencing homelessness, and the economic pressure of the pandemic sure to push many more to the brink, now is the time for us to do all we can to end homelessness for good.”

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The legislation is available to read in full here