Forget What You Think You Know about...homelessness and the pandemic

The impact of the pandemic on local people, and on the services which support them, has been huge. Homelessness is one area which has been impacted heavily by COVID-19.

Forget What You Think You Know

Episode 2: Homelessness and the pandemic (December 2020)

Alek painting a fence at his homeless shelter

The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects on our communities. In the UK alone, tens of thousands have tragically passed away as a result of the virus. Restrictions on our daily lives have been immediate, and, for peacetime, unprecedented in scale. The impact on local people, and on the services which support them, has been huge. Homelessness is one area which has been impacted heavily by COVID-19.

In the episode we talk to Alek, a 27- year old from Estonia, who was homeless and living on the streets as the outbreak of COVID-19 happened. He gives an account of how Haringey Council helped him find safe accommodation to shelter him from the dangers COVID-19 poses and how Haringey Council have continued to support him as he looks to progress with his life. The episode also explores how approaches to tackling homelessness changed as the outbreak of the pandemic happened and what needs to happen next to keep homeless people from returning to the streets.

Matt Downie MBE profile shot

We also visit Matt Downie MBE, Director of Policy & External Affairs at Crisis to hear about the national picture around homelessness, how changes in Government policy in response to the pandemic has affected council's ability to tackle homelessness and what is needed in the future.

For information, some of the stats on homelessness in Britain have changed slightly since the interviews were conducted in early December. 

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Full transcription

Ben: I'm Ben Murray, and you're listening to the Forget What You Think You Know podcast. In today's episode we will be focusing on homelessness in Britain and what impact COVID-19 has had on it. As part of today's episode we have spoken to people who have faced homelessness, people working on the frontline to help those facing it, and experts in the sector.

Gill: We were doing the work that many of us had come into the homelessness sector to do which was end homelessness and end rough sleeping.

Ben: That's Gill Taylor. She's the Strategic Lead for homelessness at Haringey Council and our first stop on the podcast.

Gill: I think in the last few years for us we've learned a lot about rough sleeping in particular I think before sort of 2017 we didn't really have many rough sleeping services in the borough at all and so we didn't really understand very much about who was rough sleeping what was going on for them and then we certainly didn't have as many services available for people as we do now.

So probably in the last few years we've definitely seen the number of people on the streets in Pre sing and a lot of those people are people from EU countries and who might be either newly arrived in the country or find themselves homeless as a result of being in precarious kind of housing or employment situations but we've also seen a lot of people who have got very complex support needs that are presenting to us who have perhaps been British Nationals living here their whole lives but who have really struggled with the kind of cuts to public services and the effects on accessing mental health and drug services in the last few years so yeah and big increase.

Ben: So it sounds like homelessness was on the rise prior to COVID-19 but what was causing these issues?

Gill: Well I think most people that work in homelessness would acknowledge that particularly rough sleeping is about a lot more than just housing but I think at the foundation of of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing for people particularly those people who are quite vulnerable with different support needs or perhaps for those who working full time isn't possible. So in London obviously there's a significant problem around the price of private rented accommodation and accessing that but there's also obviously a lot of issues with the reduction in the number of social housing flats and houses available so that's been a real real factor involved certainly in London, but I think beyond that there's a lot of complexity around the needs that people have when they are living on the streets so their health needs, mental health needs, drugs services an I think generally as well the sense of isolation that a lot of people experience on the streets is something that we've really been trying to tackle and that affects people's ability to kind of live independently.

Ben: So there are a number of issues, but how did Haringey Council look at helping these people facing homelessness when all these different issues were in place?

Gill: So in 2018 we redrafted our rough sleeping strategy and the focus of that really was about thinking about the kind of harms of rough sleeping, so beyond just the fact that people didn't have accommodation and recognising that a lot of people sleeping on the streets had a lot of the health issues I was talking about. But also there was associated issues around anti-social behaviour and people being victimised on the streets as well so that kind of connection across lots of different bits of work the council did was our first kind of priority really in understanding more about the people on the street. So when the rough sleeping initiatives programme funding came available we were really fortunate to access some of the first years funding for that and we increased our outreach team capacity so that really helped us in knowing who was on the streets, where they were, what their problems were, and it gave us a local service rather than just the pan London services that are available. And since then we've developed a lot of different things, so we've we recognise that a lot of people were unable to access accommodation in emergency situations or for rest bite so we set up a crashpad service, which is short stay kind of service for people to get off the streets quickly, get some stability and good night’s sleep and start to move them on their journey away from street homelessness. We've commissioned night shelters for a number of specialist caseworkers working with people that have got very complex immigration, health and housing needs. And we've recently been successful in getting funding for a dedicated social worker and a dedicated rough sleeping health service which for us in the borough was the first homelessness health service that we've had so it's been really amazing to be able to offer that to people where they were struggling to access healthcare before so a lot has changed.

Ben: so that was the strategy set out by Haringey and it seemed to be working. Then COVID-19 hits. On 26 March, Minister for Local Government and Homelessness, Luke Hall MP writes to all council leaders asking them to get all people living on the streets housed in safe accommodation to shelter them from the potential dangers COVID-19 poses to their health. This was called the 'Everyone In' initiative. So how did the council react?

Gill: It was a shock. I think it was really welcome for us actually, we really embraced the sort of spirit of the letter that Luke Hall sent and we recognised it was a massive opportunity for us to engage with some people we haven't been able to before either because they weren't eligible for housing or because they didn't feel able to access it for other reasons, so for us it was a huge opportunity to do to do some of the work we knew we needed to do. That's not to say that it was easy, certainly in those first four weeks I think we brought into emergency accommodations something in the region of 300 people in the first month and in total in the three months of lockdown it was around 700 people that we provided accommodation and support for and what that really meant was building a kind of entirely new infrastructure we weren't used to in providing accommodation with such urgency for those people. Only about 50 of those 700 people would have been in priority need for housing had they approached us before Covid so it meant that we were suddenly not only having to find accommodation for all of the people that we did but also secure food for them and other kinds of welfare support and specialist housing support around kind of what's going on for them in long term and that meant everything from working with local mutual aid groups to local volunteers. We had people in my team driving food around to various different hotels at the very beginning, it was all quite quite frontier it felt in the beginning. Most of us working anywhere in the region of housing or communities or homelessness were kind of working 12 hour days, seven days a week for that first, at least the first month and a half and for quite a long time after that in honesty. What was great about it was this sense that you sort of looked around and you thought wow the people I work with are amazing you know, that really insightful, really intelligent, resourceful people and often we don't really give ourselves that much credit, I think in the council particularly because we know we are often faced with some really difficult decisions and we can't always help the people that we would want to. I feel it really made me reflect on the negative impact that has on the kind of public services and how amazing it did feel to look around at your colleagues and think wow we're really all working towards the same thing everybody here has not only the kind of skills to do this work but really also the human kind of compassion for other people in our community to keep everyone safe so for me that was a really positive if absolutely knackering thing to do.

Ben: So going forward from here, how will Haringey continue this work and what are the challenges?

Gill: I think at the very start of lockdown the way we were talking was this is going to change everything forever, that we can never go back to how things were because of how much we know we can achieve when we're able to, and given the opportunity to, and I think I still stand by that and particularly I think one of the things that's been amazing that's changed is the kind of response to homeless people around their health. Some of the partnerships that we've developed with local organisations and with kind of broader health organisations working in London has been absolutely amazing and I've never seen so many people registered with GPS, so many people getting flu jabs now, and allsorts of different things that just wouldn't have been available before and in a way that's been amazing. I think the kind of challenge to that or the tension is ultimately the same tensions we always have which is resource. Haringey Council has spent upwards of £4,000,000 on this accommodation provision and the support that's available for homeless people and whilst we are incredibly happy and feel privileged to be able to do that that comes with consequences in the long term for our budgets, and the settlements that we have had, while they've been very welcome just haven't been enough to fund the amount of money that we have spent. So I think in the long term, without a significant kind of rethink about the way that homelessness services are funded both the kind of rough sleeping services but also crucially the supported housing provision that exists for people that's longer term, I suspect that unfortunately lots of things will return to a kind of a normal that we had before.

Ben: So what about the people facing homelessness. What was it like for them going through a pandemic while living on the streets? We wanted to know more. We caught up with Alek, a 27 year old who found himself homeless at the beginning of 2020 after facing some difficult personal circumstances. He was recently helped off the streets by Haringey Council as part of the Government's Everyone In scheme. We joined him and his key worker Phee to hear his story.

Alek: I've been living in the UK since 2012 and only like last year, like this earlier this year I became homeless. I used to work all the time and stuff like that but first I lost my best friend and I lost my dad so it got stressful for me, so I started taking drugs, that's how I become homeless and so it's not it's not it's not perfect, I’m just being honest and real I can say too you. So it's not a good thing to do but it's just what happened to me and I'm trying to say and now I'm clean for 3 and a half months, I don't take anything else coz I'm trying to change my life back and trying to get back on track. Obviously, Haringey Council helped me out. So in future I want to get back to job as well so start working and you know I mean because like like the life I used to live when I was homeless it's not it's not the one.

Ben: The major outbreak of COVID-19 hits in March and as part of Everyone In, Haringey Council offer Alek a safe place to stay in a hotel.

Alek: Funniest thing, the day that I got housed, the next day was my birthday. It was the 24th of March my birthday is 25 March, to 24th of March to 25th of March. Phee said I don't need you to worry, we have a place for you boom boom, then she she printed the information, set it out there and since then I’ve been housed but is like is like a real blessing I guess, that's what I can say to you, because like as I told you COVID-19 is a sad thing but I mean its only helped me out, with the house and it happened just a day before my birthday so as I said it's been shocking but it is a nice shock I guess I can say to you.

Ben: Unfortunately, hotels housing homeless around the Haringey area were full, meaning he had to originally be housed in a hotel in West London, an area he wasn’t that familiar with. This posed a number of challenges for Alek. However, Haringey Council and Phee were working hard to try and find him accommodation back in North East London, in a place more familiar to him…

Alek: It was so far because we were in North East London and I actually had to go all the way to West London, so literally across all of London. When I came there, and because at the time I didn’t even have a phone, so the information of the address they actually give to me was a few houses next to where is the hotel was, so I was panicking. I was knocking on doors and they were like no we don't know nothing about that and I had to walk around for half an hour or so then I met somebody who was meant to go there as well and eventually we found the hotel. When we found the hotel and the the person who spoke to us was like yeah the rooms are there, it was like a stone dropping from your chest and I was like that was okay because when I was sleeping rough you know it's just, just the little things like taking a shower and warm bed, it means that lot you know, because you can chill in your own personal area and watch some TV and I mean relax maybe talk to your family members to say you know what everything is OK I'm blessed. That that was I guess was the most relieving point like you know I mean like then I felt so happy.

Ben: Eventually the council came through and found Alek a hotel in Finsbury Park, back in North London… this helped him massively

Alek: Of course I was alright but then obviously Phee said look, like your a prioritiy for us, so we have got a place for you with a new project going on there so we're going to send you there. So yeah I said no problem I don't mind because Finsbury Park is kinda, is close to the area where I used to live in Tottenham so I know people from there, because when they sent me to West London I don't know nobody there. So its just that you know sometimes it's like you just want to chat to somebody and like like even just the person you know we just find out how how it is and maybe telling them what's on your mind or based person going to tell you what's on his mind and like just being able to express yourself and you start feeling better. So when they move me in in the beginning it was little bit tougher, I was stressed, I was still doing bad things bad things now and then but then I realised myself like if I'm not going to do this myself no one is going to do it for me. Like there's people here to help but they're not going to if they see that kind of energy from you. If you want to get help, you want to do something with your life, they gonna do that they're gonna give it a hand to kind of help but if you're not gonna do it yourself then its not gonna happen, that's what I was thinking.

Ben: So Alek got the move, and its safe to say he was a lot happier and more settled. But what difference does having a place to call home do for you? How can it help you turn your life around?

Alek: That's right because it's like I was doing the drugs and you know when you're living on the roads on the streets like sleeping rough, it'll be hard to get it off because what you think you look like, for example like right now I don't wanna do them because I've got a house I can go home watch TV, maybe cook a dinner, do plenty of different things, but when you’re stressed already and you’re sleeping rough you’ve got nothing else to do and that's the only thing you know like like that's when you know what to do. So that's why I think I want different options right now and that’s what you do because that's all as I told you earlier like I want to find a job in future and I mean I want to start working I can get back on track because like I wanna have family as well, things like that you know I mean, because you only live once and you have to do do something like. As I told you I'm I'm European and I've been living here so for me because I was thinking of my family, because they was doing the sacrifices when I was younger for me, to come in here and mess up my life like this, they wouldn't be happy with this, like they would be looking at me as a disappointment like. So I try to like each day get closer with them because like with certain times I didn’t speak with the family, as I told you because I was ashamed of myself you know. Basically were getting closer and like its making me encourage myself to make them proud and I mean because like they done something back then and I'm still a young guy is like like I have all my life ahead of me. So I can't like just sit down and say life is not this and this. I have to do something. Plus there is the people like Phee and other key workers who’ve helped me out.

Ben: Another issue that was looming for Alek was that he had no passport, leading to a number of complications when it came to him looking to progress with his life and get back up on his feet. Phee made that a priority and helped Alek through the process.

Alek: My problem was, I lost my passport, my passport got stolen so I wasn't able to pay for it because my family don't have that much money so it was a big problem maybe for a couple months because I need to be enrolled in benefits and to get my housing benefit, so I have to have actually paperwork for it. So I didn't have that and I spoke to Phee and she said OK how much is it? We're going to pay for it. So that's when we both went to my embassy, done all the paperwork,  so thanks to Phee and the council, now I got my passport, my ID card so I'm all legit. That’s what basically it is her because I was kinda shy to ask people like “can you give me help?” and “can you pay for it?” like it's just pride I guess, normal pride. I was in going to just leave it but she's that kind of nagging me to say I will have to do it, I have to do it, I have to do it, and she actually put it through like to make a payment, she went with me so to sort everything out so thank you very much that's why I'm grateful to her. Since I moved in she's like like the other people who have been checking on me a lot like as well like how are you? how you doing? how you find yourself? but she was the most like. She was the first calling me when I was to leave from west London because it's quite far but when I moved into Finsbury Park almost everyday, but this couple times that we bumped into her and she always makes sure to ask her how are you? whats going on? like how is your progress with everything? so I can say 100% she's a major major thing in my like in my situation and what was going on in my progress as well.

Phee: too much credit man, too much credit!

Alek: No (laughing) I’m just being honest, I’m just being honest!

Phee: To be fair, I think you just touched on some really important points Alek, because it was really important for us that you had all of your rights and that you were going to get everything you are entitled to and we identified quite early that actually the ID was gonna stop you’re EU settled status and so that was a real priority. I'm just really lucky coz you took me down to the Estonian embassy, which I have to say is beautiful, and lovely, and you took time to help me understand so much about you know your life growing up and all the amazing things you’ve done. You even persuaded me to visit Russia you know and I think the fact that you are so open to this stranger coming with you and you know it not feeling like a barrier in and of itself, I’ve got a huge amount of respect for you for that, because a lot of people don't ask, a lot of people don't think we can fund these things but obviously like our main motivation is to make sure that you, as a human, get everything that you are entitled to. And also credit to you because you've been really open about the drug use and that meant we could like practically talk about it in a way that I hope has left you feeling like you know there’s less stigma around it, because we know it happens. Just letting you know that we are there for you, we want to be. I think you've absolutely smashed it, your resilience and motivation is unparalleled and it's amazing.

Alek: Thank you very much.

Phee: You know and I really feel like you're such an asset because you bring a lot to the space yourself, you you've encouraged people to talk to us, open up to us, thats helped them take the steps, you've acted as a role model in that space, you help people share their feelings, their frustrations, but also as a young man being able to articulate you know like yeah this is really tough and really shit, that I think is really powerful and really realistic and it makes such a difference in that community. So thank you.

Alek: You're welcome, you’re welcome and thank you thank you, its mutual, its mutual!

Ben: so whats next for Alek? What does the future hold for him?

Alek: I'm still waiting for my settlement status, so that's the main point too because my benefits are just waiting only for that. So obviously for now like I want to work, but for now I'm not going to be rushing because there's a lock down happening. You don't know what's going to happen next year, Christmas is around the corner, so my first thing is get myself and settlement status, get my benefits, and get myself a house, that's my main priority. Hopefully is going to be done by the Christmas because I don't wanna spend Christmas in a hotel. Hopefully it could happen then by then and new year is new me. So obviously I will try to find a job, the past, I will leave it in the past that I want to come back to you the only just go forward that's only thing and yeah, find a job hopefully, I'm looking for kind of receptionist jobs or something and plus Phee told me there is a position going on with Haringey Council, and she said it’s going to be good for me because I got experience with that, I experienced it myself, so for me to kind of work with people and explain to them, understand them, is going to be more easier, but I can't say nothing now, so we got to see what the future holds for us that's all I can say.

Ben: I wanted to hear a bit more about what Phee and her team had been doing on the ground since the outbreak. I took a bit of time to talk to her when Alek had left.

Phee: I mean in some ways it's kind of the ways we been helping had been, I don't know might be considered quite minor, but I have to say the first point we got everybody together and we were providing breakfast and dinner, like people physically started changing they looked less tired, their cheeks were rosy, you know they were more uplifted, and I have to say that that was probably one of the most positive things I'd seen because I've known a lot of these individuals from across the year at Mulberry Junction and seeing the difference of just a regular diet and nutrition you know, as simple as it sounds made the most difference. But then I suppose we've been instrumental as a team in containing Covid in and of itself. We had a case at one of our hotels we managed it really really safely and avoided of course an outbreak, as you would never want 100 plus people to become unwell. And the resident you know obviously emailed the team to thank them for keeping her so safe and feeling really really supported and the difference that that had made to her so that was a really so positive in terms of managing everybody safety and knowing that she felt good and not stigmatised and not scared and knew that we were there on hand for her. But a lot of the other cases are around you know finally getting people's EUSS status and getting them signed up to Universal Credit, making new referrals to housing so they can genuinely move on to something far more independent and you know we've had really positive outcomes in partnership with our housing needs team and that's just wonderful especially when people message us or pop back to tell us how happy they are in their new studio or their new shared house. And doing that follow up work as well to make sure they're still well and to make sure they've got everything they need in their new homes, yeah those kind of cases I think are really wonderful. I think we have undoubtedly kept people alive.

Ben: So looking forward what's needed to tackle this in the long term? 

Phee: I think in the long term the increase or that suggested number of social housing developments is absolutely crucial but it's not immediate enough. I think it's really important that we look to the future and recognise that you know without any drastic legislative changes, this is a position that we are facing and have been for some time. As I said I started in 2012 and I've definitely not seen it get any better, so I think making sure that we have really solid firm you know plans and commitments to achieve those will be fundamental because the instability that a lack of housing brings to individuals and the impact that it has on young people growing up in households where this is a constant kind of concern and anxiety, you know it's really, really detrimental to peoples well-being and all the things that they are going to be able to achieve in their lives. Like housing is a human right and I think you know a lot more needs to be done around that and that we can't rely on the private rented sector in the way that we are because it’s unsustainable and it doesn't necessarily in and of itself meet the needs of the individuals needing to access housing.

Ben: So that's what is happening on the ground. But what about the national picture? We caught up with Matt Downie MBE, who is the Director of Policy and External Affairs at the homelessness charity, Crisis. We asked him about the national trends in homelessness prior to COVID-19 and how the pandemic is expected to effect these trends after.

Matt: I think it's important to recognise that actually before the pandemic hit, homelessness had been in in basically almost all of its forms been going up, quite rapidly, since about 2008 so really goes back to the financial crash and then some of the policy choices that were made after that. And that isn't just rough sleeping and, and, it's important to note that rough sleeping is obviously the worst form of homelessness for people to experience, it that is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the numbers. Local councils will tell you up and down the country that you know actually it's it's not just that it's the thousands of people on waiting lists for housing who are given some form of statutory right to housing, it's also the thousands of people who are sofa surfing, living in unsuitable temporary accommodation, hostels, night shelters, and if you add all of that together, as you know before the pandemic hit that’s around about 170,000 people and households living in those worst forms of homelessness and that's been you know that's been kind of decade long story. That's really to do with the lack of affordable housing particularly social housing, but also overtime the sort of gap between what welfare can pay for in terms of the cost of rent and the reality of rent has got wider and wider and wider so so you can see why people fall into homelessness, sort of on a macro level, there’s just not a safety net that is needed to catch people, but you can also see why it's so much harder for councils these days to actually help people out of homelessness. So in a sense we've got two problems. One is how do you prevent it? And then how do you stop it after it's after its occurred? And both of those problems have become much worse in the run up to the pandemic. You know sitting here, now in December none of those problems have been resolved.

Ben: COVID-19 hits and councils across the country carry out work to get everyone sleeping on the streets into sheltered accommodation. Thanks to the programme, government figures show that councils got 90% of those sleeping on the streets in. With that said, did it work?

Matt: Okay so so the Everyone In scheme is is in some ways a kind of a miracle, in some ways it’s really not, so so it needs unpacking a bit. If we take ourselves back to the 25th of March when Louise Casey sent her email saying let's get everyone in by the weekend and she also said let's get everyone out of night shelters by the weekend as well because they are not safe from Covid. What we saw was sort of remarkable in in in the in the way in which that represented a collective vision and a collective purpose and sense of energy for dealing with the worst forms of homelessness, in a decisive way that we've not seen before. You know probably the last time there was that kind of level of centralised and central government vision and intent was when Louise Casey was was working in government before which was in the late 90s and early 2000s, when rough sleeping went down by 2/3, so it definitely did bring a level of success, and it's important to note that many thousands of people were helped off the streets and out of night shelters. So around 15,000 people were given some form of emergency accommodation that was self-contained.

Matt: Two things happened one was that's the threat of the virus was much reduced for for that population of people and then another study published in The Lancet showed that over 20,000 people who amongst the homeless population, who would have otherwise contracted the virus didn't contract the virus, to hundreds of people avoiding hospitalisation and death, and that that is something to be celebrated unequivocally. Without kind of you know any sort of doubt as one of the most impressive pieces of kind of central government activity we've seen on homelessness and will ever really. But also it's worth noting that that people who were put into emergency accommodation were still homeless, there were just didn't emergency accommodation and some of those people have been in hostels, some on the street, some in night shelters, some people who just quickly come into homelessness because of the effect of the pandemic so it's it's not that rough sleeping ended, it's not that 90% of people who were rough sleeping were no longer rough sleeping, actually the 90% stat is slightly misleading because what it actually means is that 90% of people who were seen by local councils at that point in late March were given some form of offer,  that doesn't mean that 90% of people who were rough sleeping are no longer rough sleeping, it doesn't even get anywhere near that. The idea that 90% of rough sleeping is over is not true and we've now seen the return. So the most reliable numbers are in London where we've got really good database for for this and it shows that essentially rough sleeping went up dramatically as people essentially came out of the woodwork and were giving given emergency accommodation at much higher levels than we realised and we thought were out there before the pandemic. Rough sleeping obviously went as you know thousands of people went into emergency accommodation but what we now see is that on average, on any given night, the numbers are pretty much where they were before the pandemic, may be slightly lower, which is good news and we should celebrate that but what it’s not done has taken the majority of rough sleeping away.

Ben: So is the situation worst than we feared? Was the effort all in vain?

Matt: There were loads of councils that have worked miracles, absolutely worked miracles and and I think it's it's sometimes a shame that the credit for this goes to central government for its direction and its funding, when actually the logistics of it and and practicality has been local councils, housing options officers, local charities and faith groups, in real communities up and down the country. That's the success story here for me. The way in which people took that signal to say right let's up our game, lets up our expectations for what success means here and lets run with that, has meant lasting success in lots of places and we've seen councils, and look I can't name them all, but councils like Newcastle, like Southwark, like Norwich, like Liverpool, really step up and do things that were not just what Louise Casey was asking for, but much more as well.

Ben: So what next? What needs to happen to help the situation post-pandemic?

Matt: In March, what was really striking about the way the Government talked to local councils about this issue is that what Louise said in her email was that, essentially any of the previous rules and restrictions, particularly about who shouldn't be helped into accommodation, ignore them all. This is a public health emergency don't worry if somebody who previously would have qualified for local support is now given support, and you know that's the right thing to do. It is a really interesting message to come across because all of us have known, including I mean local council housing teams more than anyone, but all of us have known for many years that we've got this two tier system of people that qualify for help and those that don't and many of those that don't when you look at it is just is cruel it's arbitrary. You know if you if you could be deemed to have had caused your own homelessness or somehow can't prove that the local connection to the area is the right one, even if you've been living in this country for decades when it comes to it and you need help you don't have recourse to public funds, you know all of these things were ignored to start with and we said as a country that we would help people because they need help not because they qualify for help. So I think that the the number one thing that needs to be continued not just through the pandemic but as a principle for how we address homelessness is that the reason that people need help is because they are at risk of homelessness or experiencing it, not because the law says they meet the criteria so so I would say the first thing is that. Clarity needs to be back and there were plenty of councils that even today will say they don't actually know who they should be helping, they don't know if it's legal even to be helping people, certainly those who were born outside the UK who are homeless in the UK, so that that absolutely needs these clarifying. But of course it needs paying for as well. And you know before the pandemic local councils in England were spending over a billion pounds a year on temporary accommodation. Let's be clear that's temporary accommodation where the people are still homeless. That bill sits over and above the housing benefit bill and it's, it's crippling the budgets of lots and lots of councils so you can't up the expectations on helping people who are homeless particularly when the causes of homelessness are all still there and expect local authorities to be able to pay for it. What the government will rightly say and they should be credited for, is that there have been pots of funding so there's the protect money that came out a couple of weeks ago, there was 15 million of that, there was the next steps funding that you talked about, there was the initial 3.2 million that came out as well, these these kind of almost kind of one off kind of bursts of funding. You know every time they come out what Crisis has to do, and we always feel kind of we've kind of got no choice but would rather say something else, we always have to say is this is good but it's not everything that's needed, and we sound like a broken record, so does the LGA, so does every single council, we say you know thank you but not good enough. You know I know full well because I've spoken to central government officials about this and they feel like that they can sometimes they can't get it right, that whatever they do, whatever they say, whatever battles they win with the Treasury to get more money for homelessness, we will always say it's not enough and I think to a certain extent there right as well. That you know this week we've gotta get off this merry go round of short burst of funding particularly because it you know what often happens is local councils will put in a kind of exceptional bid to do something that meets the criteria of, so for example the next steps funding where you're asked to provide some form of accommodation for a year or so for somebody when they know full well the answer is long term if not permanent accommodation, particularly for rough sleepers with complex needs and you know short funding rounds of course they will bid for them, but they know what they really want is a secure source of revenue funding particularly for the support for these people over a longer period of time. So yes more funding and probably more so I would say than the funding we've got to reset the principle of who gets helped.

Ben: So maybe the picture around homelessness isn’t as clear cut as it seems. Although the Government's Everyone In scheme seemed to have saved thousands of lives and may have given many, like Alek, an opportunity to turn their lives around, work is still needed to be done to provide a permanent option for those facing homelessness and to stop people returning to the streets in the coming months.

Everyone In did however provide a new ambitious, localised approach to homelessness. It gave councils and their partners the tools and opportunity to get people housed. Although still a temporary solution, it could be something to be explored further as we look at new ways to help the country's homeless post-pandemic.

I'm Ben Murray and you've been listening to the Forget What You Think You Know podcast.