(image source: UK Government)
Dame Louise Casey was appointed in April to spearhead a specialist Covid-19 taskforce for rough sleepers during the pandemic, following on from the government’s ‘Everyone In’ directive announced on 27 March. She leads a team of experts to advise the Government on the next steps of emergency response, including working with Councils on plans to provide long-term, safe accommodation once lockdown is lifted – preventing the vulnerable from returning to the streets.
A tremendous effort has been made to place nearly 15,000 rough sleepers nationally into emergency accommodation. Local Councils quickly secured agreements with providers such as hotels and inns, allowing organisations like SPEAR to move people from the streets to safe, more self-contained locations where they could adequately practise measures to self-isolate. (Here is an example of SPEAR forming new relationships with providers during time of need).
To build on this achievement, Dame Casey is urging businesses, faith groups and local communities to work with the government and ensure that people experiencing homelessness receive long-term support so that they don’t end up sleeping rough again. She said now is an “extraordinary opportunity” for the whole of society to come together to end homelessness:
We have seen the best of the British public and civil society already in response to this crisis and we need to keep that spirit going as we continue to help the most vulnerable former rough sleepers stay safe inside.
Dame Casey’s call to action is already receiving significant backing including: Business in the Community, The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster, the Prince’s Trust, Comic Relief and homelessness charities.
During the pandemic, our Outreach teams have been working very hard to identify and secure accommodation. Since the end of March, we have housed 213 rough sleepers in South West London and are continuing to house even more people every day. SPEAR fully supports Dame Casey’s call to action, we have hugely benefitted from collaborating closely with community partners to combat homelessness for over 33 years and especially in these tough times.
An Outreach Worker comments:
As bleak and precarious as these times are, they also present the opportunity for reflection and growth. Our understanding of what is possible has been radically altered – resettlement routes that previously didn’t exist have been created, clients that were deemed ‘‘impossible to accommodate’’ sleep in one-bed apartments – and we are presented with an early model for what ending rough sleeping could look like.
SPEAR Chief Executive Tim Fallon is keen on bolstering existing partnerships and developing new ones to address rough sleeping:
Our nation has faced unprecedented circumstances and rallied together to tackle the challenges of the virus alongside homelessness. I am amazed at what we have achieved together to support the most vulnerable in society but we can’t stop here, the job is far from completed.
Rough sleepers have been given hope of a brighter future, now is a crucial time to engage with them and establish their path from homelessness to independence. We welcome any support you can give.
There are many ways businesses, faith groups and local communities can help to support SPEAR’s work, if you are interested please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found on www.spearlondon.org/get-involved