Government must learn from pandemic to help end rough sleeping, new DMU report urges

New research from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has found that the government response to Covid-19 provided a unique opportunity to end rough sleeping.  

A study by Jo Richardson, Professor of Housing and Social inclusion, revealed that rapid and agile ways of working in the public and charitable sector saw street homelessness end overnight.   

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However, with pandemic restrictions now lifted, Professor Richardson said she was concerned that numbers of rough sleepers and people staying in temporary accommodation were beginning to rise again. 

Prof Richardson’s report, Homeful: exploring housing-led approaches to resolve and prevent homelessness details the findings of research and learning completed during her term as president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, 

Launched in July 2021, Homeful explored housing-led approaches to resolve and prevent all forms of homelessness across the UK. The new report highlights ideas for those working across both the private rented and social housing sectors, explores key emerging themes, and provides detailed analysis.  

Prof Richardson said: “There was so much innovative thinking and practice by housing providers and charities during the pandemic response.   

“This was enabled by government funding to bring ‘Everyone In’ from the streets, because homelessness was recognised at the time as a public health emergency.   

 “Now the urgency of the pandemic crisis has gone, and government funding has retracted once more, we are in danger of not reaping the benefits of the more dynamic and joined-up practices that briefly enabled an end to rough sleeping.  

“A housing-led approach to resolving and preventing all types of homelessness is what is needed, but this is of course contingent on sufficient resource of properly affordable, social housing, for rent.”  

 The report includes a detailed list of conclusions and ideas for the future. This includes:  

  • The need for more proactivity, less reactiveness and less paternalism within the sector 

  • A longer-term approach to government funding to increase the provision of properly affordable, social rented, housing to meet increased demand 

  • The importance of lived-experience and listening to the customer when developing and delivering services 

  • A larger focus on tenancy sustainment, as this proactive approach is a vital element of homelessness prevention 

  • The necessity of agile joint working to resolve and prevent homelessness – housing, health, social care and criminal justice organisations need to work together strategically. During the global pandemic there were some new and strengthened partnerships with housing and health. 

Gavin Smart, chief executive of Chartered Institute of Housing said: “There is so much learning here for us as a profession and a sector. Jo did some incredible work during her time as CIH president, and I’d like to thank her for her research, her commitment and her inspiring fundraising effort.  

“As the professional body for housing, we will help to ensure housing professionals across the sector are aware of Jo’s findings and begin to make positive changes based on the conclusions of her research.” 

With the help of professionals and organisations in and around the sector, Prof Richardson raised over £54,000 during her Homeful campaign for the charity group ‘End Youth Homelessness’, a charity working to prevent homelessness in the UK. 

An industry research grant was awarded, to support recruitment of a research assistant to work on the Homeful campaign project, from Morgan Sindall Property Services, Longhurst and Home Group. 

Anneka Gill, transformation director, Morgan Sindall Property Services said: “Given recent numbers that an estimated 271,421 people in England are without a home, this research is coming at pivotal time to provide housing-led solutions to homelessness along with crucial insights into how we can work together to resolve and prevent homelessness within our communities.   

“By collaborating with organisations across the industry we can create sustainable solutions and strengthen the impact we have in tackling this issue.” 

Posted on Thursday 16th March 2023

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