At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people who were street homeless were offered emergency accommodation in hotels, B&Bs and hostels. However, many organisations raised concerns about what would happen to these people when lockdown restrictions were lifted and such establishments returned to business.
This week, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the Government would be providing an additional £105 million to help homeless people move into private rental market homes, as well as other accommodation types, as part of their Next Steps Accommodation Programme. Local councils can now apply for the funding, which is expected to support around 15,000 people, and funds can be used for guaranteed rent and incentives to landlords, deposit schemes and mediation support.
Mario Carrozzo, founder of Caridon Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which offers housing related support to tenants who are deemed vulnerable within the community, comments on this announcement:
“Firstly, local authorities should be commended on how efficiently they rose to the challenge of providing emergency accommodation for people who were homeless. However, like many others, our main concern was that much of the accommodation provided was only available due to government restrictions put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus, which prevented such establishments from operating in their usual capacity. Concern rose over whether these vulnerable people would be forced back to life on the streets after lockdown was eased. We believed that if the budget and desire was there to end homelessness in the wake of a global pandemic, all but ending rough sleeping overnight, it was the perfect opportunity to go the extra mile and help people into longer term accommodation.
Our goal is, and has always been, to help people into more secure accommodation and provide support beyond this to ensure they sustain the tenancy. As an example, we recently teamed up with Brent Council to help find supported accommodation for 30 individuals who will no longer have to fear the risk of homelessness.
What we find is that many vulnerable ‘would be’ tenants are often locked out of accessing the private rented sector because of the stigma around letting to people in receipt of housing benefit. However, our experience of working in this field has demonstrated that more often than not, discrimination occurs because of the perception of the benefits system rather than an actual problem. This not only impacts people on low income, but also people with disabilities.
The key to breaking down these barriers and sustaining tenancies is assessment and then continued support, both for the tenant and the landlord – this drives confidence. Therefore, the announcement of further support from the Government as part of The Next Steps Accommodation Programme, is an extremely positive step forward. Through direct payments and mediation services, it will give landlords the confidence to help someone who has fallen on hard times or is deemed vulnerable. However, essential to helping these individuals to rebuild their lives back into society, will be ensuring they are given ongoing assessments and support to help manage their finances, employment prospects and other aspects of daily life.”