Resettlement options for people who’ve been sleeping rough during COVID-19

The Government has brought forward funding to provide 6,000 additional housing units for people brought inside from rough sleeping during the COVID-19 crisis. More than half of these are going to be made available in the next 12 months, with additional ‘revenue’ funding also available to provide support. Riverside support over 3,000 people who are homeless on any given night, and have been helping people get into longer-term accommodation throughout the crisis.

We’ve gathered some examples below from the service we run in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, where we provide the full spectrum of housing need. We’ll be adding a new example everyday exploring the different types of housing needs individuals’ experience and demonstrate the value of having many options available to meet these, especially during COVID-19 which has presented unique opportunities to get people indoors.

All of these will be needed nationally to achieve the Government’s goal, and we’ll be playing our part in helping make that happen.

Note: names and details have been changed to protect people’s identities.

Aziz’s Story – Removing barriers due to having ‘No Recourse To Public Funds’

Aziz is a European citizen who was first encountered by the outreach team sleeping rough in late March. Initially placed in Riverside’s emergency hub room, COVID-19 funding provided to the Local Authority was used to move Aziz into hotel accommodation as soon as possible. Aziz had no benefits in place and had recently had a claim rejected stating he was not entitled to claim benefits within the UK, so the team supported him to demonstrate residence in the UK for the past 5 years. This led to him being granted settled status and access to reside here and claim benefits.

This unlocked further options for Aziz, and with ongoing needs it was agreed that supported accommodation would be the most appropriate move-on. In mid-April, Aziz moved into a standalone flat within a Riverside supported housing scheme so he could have independence but also access support. He has been registered with relevant agencies including a GP and drug & alcohol support services to address ongoing needs and be ready to apply for longer-term housing through normal channels when he feels ready for the next stage.

Phil’s Story – Begging and substance misuse

Phil was well known to the Outreach Team due to intermittent rough sleeping and begging in the town centre to pay for their addictions. Previous offers of accommodation had been turned down, but following the lockdown and less people on the streets they were no longer getting enough money for food or substances. They agreed to move into a bed and breakfast as well as meal service. Several days inside in a row change their mind about moving into more permanent accommodation, and they took on a supported housing property where they have remained since.

As well as maintaining a tenancy, Phil has been working well with support staff and engaging with the drug & alcohol recovery team to help manage his use of substances. More people in the town centre as lockdown eases and shops re-open will present opportunities to return to begging, but the hope is the different way Phil has been living since COVID will be enough to prevent him slipping back into past behaviours.

Megan’s Story – fleeing a domestically violent relationship

Originally from Wakefield, Megan was rough sleeping in the town having fled a domestically violent relationship in another part of the country. She was quickly found a hotel room while specific women-only accommodation was identified which she could move into. The team worked with Megan to find a suitable property, eventually helping her moving into a property near to her Mum’s.

This was particularly positive because Megan’s children had been living with her mum since she left, and she’d had no contact. The team supported her to get back in touch, providing a mobile phone for regular contact. Megan is thriving in her new place and started seeing her children (from a safe distance over the garden fence) several times a week.

Dean’s Story – Leaving care and ‘elastic tolerance’

Dean is a care leaver who has struggled with inappropriate and challenging behaviour since before he was asked to leave care prior to his 18th birthday. Also experiencing ADHD, autism and learning difficulties, Dean first became homeless in autumn 2019, and has been evicted from multiple hotels, supported housing, and shared accommodation since then. Riverside started working with Dean early in the lockdown, and have stayed with him through each of these evictions or support being withdrawn from other mainstream services. Working with him to explore new options in three different Local Authorities, our support workers have practiced ‘elastic tolerance’ to adapt to the multiple and complex needs he has.

The result of continuing to believe in Dean and offer him more chances has been finally finding a placement which works for him. He’s now been accommodation for over a month in a shared house in another part of the area, accepting his responsibility in the previous tenancies breaking down, and taking on part time work – which he’s hugely enjoying and benefiting from the focus it brings.

Alfie’s Story – aligning support across agencies

Alfie had lost his property with supported housing for breaking visitor rules during COVID. He was booked into a hotel instead so he could still keep himself safe, and the Outreach Team used the respite to explore what Alfie wanted to do next. He was keen to have a fresh start, and so Riverside identified suitable properties in a neighbouring town through another housing provider.

To help Alfie resettle in his new accommodation, the team sources a radio so he had some entertainment and a weekly food parcel to limit how much he needs to go out. Contact was also made with the drug & alcohol team who were providing him with medication to manage his substance use, and the location as well as timing of this was switched to match his new circumstances. Aligning all the agencies involved in providing the right support around what Alfie wants for his future has helped find a stable tenancy where he still housed six weeks later.