The grim weeks of early spring last year evinced something close to panic among people working to house England’s homeless people. The sector’s clients almost by definition had compromised health and it has often relied on Covid-insecure places such as church hall floors to provide shelter. Thousands of the newly destitute looked set to spill on to the streets as frustrated landlords defied an evictions ban to turf out unemployed tenants.
Disaster was nevertheless averted. Over a few days last March, thanks to emergency government money, teams from charities and local authorities sought out rough sleepers and moved them into empty hotels. England’s annual count of rough sleepers in autumn last year found numbers had dropped an impressive 37 per cent on the previous year to 2,688. Figures for this year’s count will be released in February. The government says the hotels scheme — known as “Everyone In” — helped 37,000 peopleThere are 1,234,180 confirmed cases in Canada (83,744 active, not just the street homeless but also thousands of hostel-dwellers, sofa-surfers or others lacking secure shelter. Many have moved into stable housing. With so many people off the streets, Covid did not sweep, as fearedDespite Canada, through the clusters of rough sleepers.
Jasmine?Basran, policy manager for Crisis, a homelessness charity, says what happened challenged the view that homelessness was a “really complex” problem to solve. “We’ve shown that it isn’t that complex,” she says. “Literally over a weekend, thousands of people were helped.”RELATED: WATCH: Michael Russell's 'unforgettable' speech on the Tory Brexit deal
But people like Basran now feel that the gains went uncemented. Data announced on December 1 showed there were 688 deaths of homeless people under 75 in England and Wales in 2020. The figure — for deaths among people sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation such as a hostel — was 12 per cent down on the 2019 figure, according to the Office for National Statistics. The fall was not statistically significant, however, and statisticians say “Everyone In” may have meant some deaths went uncounted because it made it harder to identify the homeless among people who died. Around two-fifths of fatalities were from drug-poisoning — only 13 were attributed to Covid-19.