Local authorities ‘braced for second wave' of Covid homelessness

Municipalities are bracing for an “absolute train wreck” as they anticipate a second wave of homelessness among those affected by the pandemic’s economic downturn, a report warns.

According to a report from Crisis, the homeless charity, city councils in England, Scotland and Wales have seen a steady new influx of people since the pandemic started.

Services are now worried about a newly emerging need for support as the economic ramifications of the pandemic push people to the brink.

This includes families going homeless for the first time, people on leave, and newly unemployed people struggling with things like rent arrears and broken relationships.

In particular, they fear that more and more people from the private rental sector will be priced when measures such as end of leave and evictions by the courts begin to work.

In England, local authorities fear they could be without emergency shelters during the winter months, fearing that public funding will not be sufficient to meet rising demand.

The government announced a £ 10 million cold weather fund in October to help councils support rough sleepers in the winter in October, and has since allocated a further £ 15 million to ten areas in England deemed additional aid need.

The Crisis Report, based on research conducted between April and October, concludes: “In England, local authorities and voluntary organizations were concerned about the sustainability of winter shelter funding.

“In many areas they had already spent too much money and even with additional funding announcements from MHCLG (the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government) it is not clear if the purchase of temporary housing can continue at this rate.”

One respondent, from a local authority in England, said they expected a second wave of homelessness, mainly from those unable to stay in private rental properties and possibly owner-occupiers.

They said building additional future capacity for those struggling now is key, adding, “Then what are we going to do with them? Because that’s an absolute train wreck, ready to hit the tracks and hit us in six months, twelve months, whenever that may be. “

There was less concern about the adequacy of public funding among local authorities in Scotland and Wales, the report said.

It said one of the biggest challenges facing municipalities is moving people housed in emergency shelters, such as hotels, into permanent and safe homes.

A spokeswoman for MHCLG said: “The government has taken unprecedented steps to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic – backed by more than £ 700 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone.

“This work is underway and by September we had helped move more than 19,000 people to permanent accommodation.

“We are working with councils, charities and other partners this winter to protect vulnerable rough sleepers and have launched the £ 15 million protection program to ensure that local areas facing the greatest challenges get the help they need to support rough sleepers. “