Councils are braced for an “absolute train wreck” as they anticipate a second wave of homelessness of people hit by the pandemic’s economic fall out, a report warns.
A report by the homelessness charity Crisis said councils in England, Scotland and Wales have seen a continued new flow of people since the pandemic started.
Services are now concerned about a newly emerging need for support as the economic impacts of the pandemic push people to the brink.
This includes families who are becoming homeless for the first time, people on furlough and the newly unemployed, struggling with issues such as rent arrears and relationship breakdowns.
In particular, they fear seeing increased numbers of people priced out of the private rental sector when measures such as furlough end and evictions start to move through the courts.
In England, local authorities fear they may run out of emergency accommodation over the winter months, amid concerns that Government funding will not be sufficient to allow them to meet rising demand.
The Government announced a £10 million cold weather fund to help councils support rough sleepers over winter in October, and has since allocated a further £15 million to ten areas in England deemed to need additional support.
Crisis’s report, based on research between April and October, concludes: “In England local authorities and voluntary sector organisations were concerned about the sustainability of funding emergency accommodation over winter.
“In many areas they had already overspent and even with additional funding announcements from MHCLG (The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) it is not clear if the procurement of temporary accommodation can continue at this pace.”
One respondent, from a local authority in England, said they were anticipating a second wave of homelessness, predominantly of those unable to stay in private rental homes and potentially owner-occupiers.
They said building additional future capacity for those struggling now is key, adding: “What are we going to be doing about them then? Because that’s an absolute train wreck, ready to hurtle down the track and hit us in six months, twelve months, whenever that may be.”
There was less concern about the sufficiency of Government funding among local authorities in Scotland and Wales, the report said.
It said one of the biggest challenges councils are experiencing is being able to move people housed in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, into permanent and safe homes.
An MHCLG spokeswoman said: “The Government has taken unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic – backed by over £700 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone.
“This work is ongoing and by September we had helped move over 19,000 people into settled accommodation.
“We’re working with councils, charities and other partners to protect vulnerable rough sleepers this winter and launched the £15 million Protect Programme to ensure local areas facing the biggest challenges get the help they need to support rough sleepers.”
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