Tenants and Homeless Abandoned for Lockdown

Homeless person affected by Austerity sitting in front of At Paul's Cathedral
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As we enter the third lockdown, over 76,000 deaths have been recorded as being COVID-19 related in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Since the lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, there has been no mention of re-introducing the ban on tenants being evicted that was put in place last March. Nor have provisions for rough sleepers been discussed or announced. This lack of action is leading to homeless people being put at significant risk of catching the virus.

Whilst the UK and Devolved Government’s are instructing everyone to stay at home apart from in exceptional circumstances, there are thousands of people across the UK that don’t have anywhere to isolate themselves.

It is not difficult to see why those who are sleeping rough, are being put at a significantly higher risk of catching COVID-19 than most people, purely because they are unable self isolate. You then need to consider that their lack of facilities and sustenance puts them at a disadvantage during recovery.

Combined with the new SARS-COV-2 variant that originated in the UK, the risk to life has subsequently increased to those on the streets and in insecure accommodation.

There’s no doubt that deaths were prevented in the first wave of the pandemic when emergency accommodation was provided to everyone sleeping rough. However, since the country “opened up” thousands of people have become homeless.

Whilst temporary accommodation is currently available for families and those classed as vulnerable, there are also thousands unable to access this help due to a variety of reasons.

Cash Strapped Councils

Charities and Local Authorities have been doing their best to house as many homeless people as possible since the pandemic began last March. However, it’s simply not possible for them to be able help everyone due to the costs involved. Many council’s have seen a significant a fall in revenue as a result of central government cuts and pandemic losses.

The three most common triggers of homelessness are:

  • People no longer able to stay with family or friends
  • The loss of a private tenancy
  • Domestic abuse.

People at risk of homelessness and those in vulnerable housing were protected to an extent by an eviction ban which was implemented for the first lockdown in March 2020. Whilst the Scottish Government have recently extended their ban on evictions until March 2021, the Government in Westminster have not followed suit for tenants in England.

Homeless Charity Shelter, released a report in December that revealed 253,000 people in England are homeless and have been living in temporary accommodation during the pandemic. This is the highest figure for 14 years.

Temporary accommodation provided by councils can range from a self-contained flat to an emergency B&B room with shared facilities. One in six homeless households (17%) are currently placed in emergency B&Bs and hostels, where poor conditions and gross overcrowding are rife. The use of emergency B&Bs alone has increased by a staggering 371% over the last ten years. When you add in shared facilities during a pandemic, it’s not hard to guess what’s going to happen.

Worse still, Shelter points out that the number of people experiencing homelessness is undoubtedly higher, as many people will be undocumented by councils because they are sleeping rough or sofa-surfing.

A lack of action by the government has only increased pressure on already stretched Local Authorities during the lockdown which, depending on infection rates, could continue until Easter.

A Wake Up Call

With unemployment rising, many more people may find themselves homeless in the weeks and months ahead. With Job losses and the unfair cap on private tenancy costs for benefit claimants, it’s an unavoidable reality that people will be unable to pay their rent. As such, they will face being left without secure accommodation.

The pandemic has not only highlighted the desperate need for more social housing, but how important it is for the government to provide local authorities with more cash for social housing.

It’s vital that the government provides the means to support everyone in need to local councils and charities involved with the housing of people.

When asked about whether the Eviction Ban will return and about help for rough sleepers, a Government spokesperson told Black Isle Media:

“We are reviewing the measures currently in place and will provide more detail shortly, taking into account public health advice.”

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