Rough sleeping snapshot in England: Autumn 2020 – Riverside’s response

John Glenton reflects on the latest rough sleeper figures which show a reduction of 37% year on year. We have proven how well homelessness services can be funded and run during a national health emergency – now it is time to treat homelessness itself as a national health emergency.

John Glenton, Executive Director of Care and Support at Riverside, said: “The steep fall in rough sleeping in England is a testament to the exceptional work that can be achieved through a scheme like Everyone In when homelessness services are well-funded and coordinated.

“Through the hard work of local government, the NHS, other health partners, agencies and charities this Government’s funding has enabled 23,000 people affected by homelessness to move into longer-term accommodation.

“The achievements of this Government in helping to reduce rough sleeping should be commended but we now need to build upon this and provide appropriate housing and tailored care and support packages for people to ensure that they sustain a home long-term instead of returning back to the streets.

“As a country we also need to ask ourselves why so many people are falling through the safety net and we’ve needed to support 33,000 people affected by homelessness during the pandemic?

“Providing effective homelessness services is genuinely a matter of life and death for people – highlighted by this week’s sad news that deaths among homeless people rose by more than a third last year to almost 1,000 (976).

“It is important to note that the 2008/09 recession led to a 25% increase in homelessness. When furlough ends and the tenant eviction ban stops, we are going to find out more about the economic damage that has been done by the sharpest recession for more than 100 years.

“To minimise the potential future increase in homelessness in England and enable people to get back to living productive lives requires long term sustainable funding, investment in initiatives like Housing First, preventative measures and an increase in the supply of appropriate, available social housing as well as a well-resourced health and social care sector. The Housing First pilot schemes which Riverside have been involved in across England have delivered exceptional results, while nationally almost nine in ten people (88%) have so far managed to sustain their tenancy.

“We will look at this funding issue in more detail in an upcoming research paper to highlight that England is at a critical crossroads in our funding of homelessness services after a decade of austerity.

“We have proven how well homelessness services can be funded and run during a national health emergency – now it is time to treat homelessness itself as a national health emergency.”

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