Over half of frontline services have seen a rise in homelessness
- Crisis launches new campaign which calls for a safe and settled home for all
- Charity warns extraordinary progress made in tackling homelessness is at risk if further action isn’t taken
Over half of frontline services (53%) have seen a rise in homelessness as people across Great Britain struggle in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, new research from national homelessness charity Crisis reveals today.
The study, which surveyed 150 charities and organisations supporting people experiencing homelessness, lays bare the huge pressure coronavirus is exerting on people already pushed to the brink by low wages and high rents, with nearly three quarters of those surveyed saying demand for their services has increased since the start of the pandemic.
As the economic fallout from the virus takes its toll on people’s livelihoods, the overwhelming majority of respondents (60%) said they have seen an increase in people who’ve recently lost their job seeking support, as people struggle to keep their head above water. Sadly, people who’ve found themselves in an insecure situation, such as staying with friends or extended family, have also been significantly impacted, with 60% of those surveyed saying they had seen a rise in people sofa surfing needing help.
The mounting pressure of being without a safe home has also taken its toll on people’s mental and physical wellbeing, as the organisations surveyed reported a dramatic rise in people seeking help for basic needs such as food (86%), their finances (76%) and feelings of loneliness and isolation (96%).
The research comes as Crisis urges the Westminster government to commit to a plan that will enable everyone across Great Britain to have the security of a safe and settled home. The call to arms follows weeks of extraordinary action from national governments and organisations across the country to get everyone into safe accommodation during the pandemic, as well as putting in place temporary measures to stop people from becoming homeless in the short term. This has demonstrated that when the political will is there it is possible to end homelessness.
However, the charity warns that if further action isn’t taken to provide everyone with permanent housing, people could be forced to return to the streets or face lengthy stays in unsuitable temporary accommodation.
Ellesse, 22, from Sheffield was working in a shoe kiosk up until two months ago when the pandemic forced the shop to close and she was let go, leaving her with little to live on. With help from Crisis she was able to negotiate a delay in paying her rent, but the arrears will need to be paid back in the future.
Talking about her experience Ellesse said: “We knew something wasn’t right as we’d been closing earlier and earlier, and then shifts started being cut back as customers stayed away. I’d begun to panic that we might lose our jobs then our boss called and said she couldn’t afford to keep us on.
“I applied for Universal Credit but because of when I lost my job, I won’t receive any housing benefit until next month meaning I’ve not been able to pay my rent. My final wage was nowhere near enough to cover two months’ worth of bills and food, so Crisis helped me with food vouchers – I don’t know what I would have done without them.
“I really want to get back to work but I’m worried as barely any businesses are hiring so it’s hard to predict what the future will hold, but for now I’m just trying to stay positive.”
Responding to the research Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “The pandemic has made it abundantly clear just how important it is that everyone has somewhere safe to call home. We’ve made tremendous strides in the response to this public health emergency, with councils and organisations moving thousands of people living on our streets, in night shelters, and overcrowded hostels into hotels and other forms of emergency accommodation in record time. But as our research shows we still have some way to go before the job is done.
“At this very minute tens of thousands of people across Great Britain are struggling against a rising tide of job insecurity and high rents, all of which threaten to push them into homelessness. We’re also seeing people who are still trapped on our streets because they aren’t eligible for help. This isn’t right especially when, given the progress we’ve made so far, we know that ending homelessness is within our grasp.
“As a society we must now do everything we can to make sure that people hit the hardest during this period and beyond aren’t pushed further to the brink. This is why we’re calling on the Westminster government to do the right thing and commit to a plan that will enable everyone to have the security of a safe and settled home.”