The Government pledged to end rough sleeping by the end of the current parliament. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy, however. Now it’s possible that instead of ending homelessness, the Government could implement cuts that will make the problem much worse. The Salvation Army’s recent report, ‘Future-Proof the Roof,’ not only warns of the economic consequences for vulnerable families should this come to pass, it also offers solutions to sustain the progress already made in the battle against rough sleeping.
The lead-up to the Government’s Autumn Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) refers to ‘tough choices’ related to homelessness and rough sleeping services. This has been interpreted to mean funding cuts similar to those of the austerity budget of 2010.
The cut-backs could be avoided, according to Lorrita Johnson, The Salvation Army’s Director of Homelessness Services.
Lorrita Johnson 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.”
Johnson added that if the Government immediately implements the alternatives contained in the report, it could protect thousands of people from returning to the streets. Furthermore, thousands of children will be spared cramped and unhealthy temporary accommodation.
Temporary accommodation can cost almost £1 billion a year, so it’s certainly in the Government’s best financial interests to lessen that particular need.
The Future-Proof the Roof report makes several recommendations, including:
- Improved data collection to accurately assess the number and demographic of rough sleepers, so that investment can meet demand. This can be largely achieved with CHAIN (Combined Homeless and Information Network) style systems.
- Commitment to sustained investment levels throughout the pandemic and the period immediately after, amounting to approximately £686 million per year for the next three to four years.
- A new approach to investment in homelessness and rough sleeping, for example, a rule that investment must be sustained and not reduced even if rough sleeping figures are stable, and especially if the figures increase.
- Provision of sufficient emergency accommodation for the Next Steps Accommodation Programme and schemes along the lines of Housing First. The report also recommended a new Empty Homes Programme for rough sleepers, and improved construction techniques to increase the availability and quality of modular homes.
The good that can be achieved
The Salvation Army has countless testimonies from people who have benefitted from its homelessness programmes. Take Graeme Myall, for example. He was a successful truck driver with a good salary, but his life fell apart after someone close to him died. His mental health suffered and as a result, he lost his job, couldn’t pay his rent, and was finally evicted.
Graeme found salvation at the church’s James Lee House Lifehouse in Warrington.
He said, “The Salvation Army provided accommodation, which gave me a level of independence and security. There were people there to talk to; they actually listened and gave me advice where appropriate. They supported me to do the right things. The Salvation Army helped me create a plan for the immediate future with what I wanted to achieve. They help you to realise what you want in life.”
The church’s support enabled Graeme to further his independence so that he now lives in private rented accommodation.
Additional information on the report can be found in the article: Government Plans to End Rough Sleeping Could Unravel Within Months.