Rough sleeping plans could unravel within months

A new report has warned that homelessness and rough sleeping will soar if the government fails to properly fund homelessness support services in this Autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Future-Proof the Roof report, published by The Salvation Army, says that the economic consequences of the pandemic will increase rough sleeping and force families into expensive and unsuitable temporary accommodation, like bed and breakfast, as local authorities struggle to manage rising homelessness levels.  

The charity does suggest some solutions to help sustain the progress that’s been made in recent months, while helping to prevent growing rates of rough sleeping and homelessness in the future. Not only would this protect thousands of vulnerable people but investing in homelessness now will avoid spiralling costs in the future. Typical avoidable costs include expensive temporary accommodation, which just last year cost local authorities close to £1 billion.

Among the suggestions, the Salvation Army says the government must improve data collection, commit to a sustained level investment to build on the progress made during the outbreak of coronavirus, and begin implementing a new approach to investment in homelessness and rough sleeping.

Lorrita Johnson, The Salvation Army’s director of Homelessness Services, said: “It’s not too late to stop a massive increase in homelessness and rough sleeping caused by the current economic downturn. Bold government moves like the furlough scheme, temporary protection from eviction and emergency accommodation for rough sleepers saved lives and ensured thousands still had a home. However, our report demonstrates that if the government mirrors the austerity approach it took during the last economic crisis, there will be dire consequences for rough sleepers, private renters and the economy as a whole.

“Our report Future-Proof the Roof outlines alternatives to the austerity measures that came into force post 2010 and could be reintroduced following the upcoming spending review. If they act now, the government will protect thousands of people from either returning to the streets and prevent many children being raised in cramped and unhealthy temporary accommodation.”

David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesperson, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the significant challenges councils already faced supporting homeless people. In the short term, to prevent any immediate rise in homelessness, the Government should bring forward its pledge to end ‘no fault evictions’, which would help reduce the number of people evicted, and commit to maintaining local housing allowance rates at the lowest third of market rents.

“In the longer term, housing must be a central part of the recovery from coronavirus, with the Spending Review delivering a genuine renaissance in council house-building that reduces homelessness, gets rough sleepers off the streets for good, supports people’s wellbeing and is climate-friendly.”

In 2018/19 alone, councils overspent on homelessness services by a combined total of £140 million due to an increase in demand for support, and a lack of affordable housing to accommodate people at risk of homelessness.