Covid-19 crisis update
After warnings that half the rough sleepers in hotels may not have access to support from July, because of NRPF, from Museum of Homelessness and 100 organisations with #NoOneLeftOut and Crisis’s Home For All campaigns comes some good news. On 24 June government promised £85 million to prevent 1000s of people in emergency accommodation from having to return to rough sleeping. Crisis adds: “We need emergency legislation to ensure that every local council can provide housing support to everyone experiencing homelessness.
Happy to help: The UCKG Finsbury Park soup kitchen tripled the number of free food bags it distributed to 169 on Saturday 6 June. They also took home-cooked soup and food bags to people who did not want to lose their pitches outside supermarkets. © UCKG
Everyone In £ flaws
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s investigation into the government’s Everyone In policy – which asked councils to house their rough sleeping population in a matter of days – explores the problems with the response, and the issues now facing government policy on homelessness. Firstly, emergency housing for people sleeping rough with symptoms of Covid-19 wasn’t secured by the Greater London Authority until three weeks after the “Everyone In” policy was announced. Wales set aside £10m to secure housing and protection for homeless people during the pandemic, three times the amount ringfenced by England. Alarmingly, contracts with hotels to house people sleeping rough was set to expire in June. By late May cash-strapped councils were struggling to raise funds to secure the emergency hotels beyond that date.
- As the Pavement goes to press exit dates are still not clear. For this reason, we have a Mini List of services on p17 only. Also see
- Ideally phone before making a long trip as places may be shut.
Everyone In saved lives. In London at the end of April there were 28 homeless people diagnosed with Covid-19 and none diagnosed since mid June. In New York, as of 6 May, 700 homeless people were diagnosed with Covid-19 and 69 people were known to have died. “This success is directly attributable to the closure of dormitory style night shelters and the move into single room accommodation in hotels and similar accommodation,” reports the NHS.
The Ministry of Justice has revealed they released more than 1,000 prison leavers into homelessness, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. The prison leavers were released into rough sleeping or other forms of homelessness between March 23 and April 30. The Guardian reports the government has increased funding for accommodation for prison leavers in response to the figures, which were released to Labour MP Lynn Brown. The figures, relating to England and Wales, also showed an additional 1,209 people left prison with unknown circumstances for accommodation during the same period.
Hot lunch: During lockdown the Akshaya Patra Foundation UK, with Food for All, served over 100,000 hot vegan meals of khichdi, an Indian dish made with vegetables, lentils and rice, at Holborn and Watford, along with its affiliate partner Food For All. © Akshaya Patra Foundation
The Guardian understands local authorities in the UK have demanded the government drop its “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF) immigration status, until at least the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the status, immigrants are allowed to work in the UK, but are excluded access to most benefits if they become unemployed. The Local Government Association told Westminster in June that thousands of immigrants using the NRPF visa had approached their council for assistance during the pandemic. There has been a rise in homeless migrant workers with NRPF status, with many more facing homelessness once eviction restrictions are lifted. The NRPF immigration status was introduced in 2012 as part of the government’s unpleasant “hostile environment” policy.
- Do you have NRPF? You can still see a GP
Refuge & outreach
Good news: during lockdown the Outside Project opened an LGBTIQ+ DVA Refuge called STAR Refuge. They also received funding for an LGBTIQ+ Outreach Worker to support LGBTIQ+ people in emergency hotel accommodation, the 'new' homeless and general enquiries.
Everyone In closing?
More on the Everyone In policy, from Manchester Evening News (MEN). The government planned to end it less than two months after it was introduced. By mid-May the government had stopped funding the scheme, according to a report leaked to MEN, leaving councils scrambling to maintain support services and fund accommodation. The scheme’s end arrives at the start of a fresh homelessness crisis, with Greater Manchester alone expecting 5,000 new people to become homeless between April and July. Homeless charity Crisis, meanwhile, warned the BBC that thousands of homeless people would be forced to return to the streets once the scheme ends.
Pauline Town told Manchester Evening News in June that she was “busier than ever”, working 16-hour days at her pub in Greater Manchester. Law enforcement needn’t worry, however. While her pub was closed, landlady Town ran a kitchen for homeless and vulnerable people during the pandemic. A team of nine volunteers (Town included) served food daily to those struggling to get a meal. Town’s charity preceded the Covid-19 crisis, having served the local homeless community with packed lunches at her pub every day for a number of years.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has a peculiar set of priorities. In April the two-term Democrat revealed his latest budget, pledging US$1.86b to the LA Police Department (LAPD). Then the budget was passed without review by the City Council, according to the LA Times, even though funding for the LAPD in Garcetti’s budget represented a US$120m increase on the previous year. The annual budget also eclipses Garcetti’s US$1.2b 10-year scheme to house the city’s 60,000 homeless population. Responding to the ensuing protests against racism and police brutality, Garcetti eventually pledged to cut the LAPD’s annual budget by up to US$150m.
Citizens of Nairobi, Kenya are bravely protesting an extra-judicial killing by the police. The protests were sparked by the death of James Mureithi, a 51-year-old homeless man accused by police of breaking the Kenyan capital’s coronavirus curfew. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority believe police officers have killed 15 people for allegedly breaking curfew, as well as injuring 31 others. Mureithi was reportedly shot by officers who then left his body in an alleyway, according to the Independent.