Each year we support thousands of people who are homeless. And now, as the harshest time of year approaches, we’re getting ready to help people again. Social distancing means we’ll be doing things differently, but we’ll be looking after as many people as we possibly can. And the spirit of a Crisis Christmas will be exactly the same. We will treat people with care and respect – giving them that warm Crisis welcome, so they get their dignity back and feel ready to take on life again.
This Christmas our frontline teams will be providing food and festive treats. We’ll be on hand with emotional and wellbeing support, offering everything from Christmas games and advice to volunteer befrienders. Nutritious meals, somewhere to stay, help for the future – it will make such a difference to people.
We’ve answered some of your questions below which will help explain what we’ll be doing this Christmas.
In May the government reported that nearly 15,000 people across the country with nowhere safe to stay had been helped into emergency accommodation under the 'Everyone In' programme. Crucially, everyone was able to access accommodation without needing to meet the usual legal tests, which really made a difference in being able to get the majority of people off the streets. There was also wide support provided for many people while in the emergency accommodation, including mental health support, health and treatment services, and welfare advice. As a result of this unconditional, open-to-all accommodation and support offer, some people sleeping rough were able to access support services for the first time.
During the pandemic, Crisis provided remote and in person support to our Members with advice, practical support, and wellbeing checks. We arranged for phones and internet access for hundreds of Members so they could be connected and receive support while self-isolated. We launched a grant programme offering funding to local homelessness organisations to support them to continue provision and transform their services. We lobbied government to get people into emergency accommodation during lockdown and to ensure that everyone was able to access emergency accommodation. We've been campaigning to ensure there's a Home for All, calling for protections from evictions for renters, funding to help people into permanent housing, and changes to ensure that everyone can access homelessness and housing support going forward.
We'll be undertaking DBS checks for more volunteers this year as there will be more one to one contact through befriending and advice sessions. We'll ask volunteers only to apply if they are not going to put themselves at risk. All volunteers will be asked to complete our basic online learning, which will include safeguarding, Health & Safety and Coronavirus awareness sessions before they start a shift.
Crisis trialled a dedicated Crisis at Christmas guests case management team last year, in London, and now employ this team full time. We also recruited additional staff to provide support and advice and advocacy to people after Christmas. We will also be keeping our accommodation open into the New Year this time, so we can better link up with services that might have closed or reduced staffing levels over the Christmas period, so we have the best chance of helping guests access the longer term help they may need.
The government in England has launched a new £266m Next Steps funding programme which aims to move people housed in emergency accommodation due to Covid-19 into homes. Local authorities can bid for funds to continue provision for those individuals who were given emergency temporary accommodation under the 'Everyone In' programme, as well as for funds for longer term 'move on' accommodation for these individuals. There is also funding to ensure that the engagement that people have had with health and treatment services can be maintained. But Crisis is concerned that the funding for 'move on' accommodation does not allow for the provision to secure housing that will end someone's homelessness - instead funds will only be for tenancies of up to 3 years and preferably no more than 1 year. The governments in Scotland and Wales have committed funding for local authorities to move people housed in emergency accommodation due to Covid-19 into permanent homes, provided under secure tenancies and for social rents. We are concerned however that some people who are not originally from the UK will be unable to access longer term move on accommodation, and risk being forced back onto the streets unless emergency accommodation provision is extended and specialist advice and support to help resolve their situation is provided.
We won't be providing communal sleeping arrangements - but will be securing accommodation in hotels and student accommodation in some parts of the country where guests can keep safe, self-isolate and access support and advice and health care. We will be moving our advice and volunteering services online wherever possible. We'll use hubs in some locations to get things like food, clothes, essentials, and gifts to people outside the hotels - Crisis' year-round members, and people facing homelessness in other situations.
By donating this Christmas, you’re doing much more than buying someone Christmas dinner. A gift of a Crisis Christmas could give someone who is homeless access to:
Christmas is just the beginning, your donation will also help fund year-round support including training and education so that people experiencing homelessness are given the chance to leave homelessness behind for good.
Because Christmas is being run differently to safeguard against the spread of the Coronavirus, it's been slightly more difficult for us to predict the cost of this level of support. The cost is an estimation based on the expenses and costs we saw in 2019 when funding our Christmas services and year-round work.