Since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, Crisis has helped provide temporary shelter to thousands of people sleeping rough in the UK, undoubtedly saving many lives from the virus. Now, with the UK entering a recession, and the Government lifting its eviction ban, Crisis plans to seize the moment and convince the UK public that and an end to homelessness is possible.
“Can homelessness be eradicated? My instinct says yes,” asserts Richard Lee, head of fundraising at Crisis, the national charity for homeless people. “But it’s a tough journey,” he admits.
The past few months have been a momentous time for the charity, in a phase that saw it work with the government, as well as councils and other homelessness charities across the country to provide temporary shelter to those in need. In England alone, 15,000 people found their way out of the trap of hostels, sofa surfing, and off the streets, into safe spaces. However, despite the progress, the UK has now entered a recession and the threat of further homelessness is imminent.
“The pandemic has shown that homelessness is a choice, not a given,” Lee says. “It's proven that changes can be made that make a difference. We saw the government respond and change policy quickly and effectively.”
Back in March, Crisis devised a campaign called 'In This Together' which called on the British public to donate in support of people who are homeless and vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak. The campaign was so effective that Crisis was able to fund over 215 local charities across the UK in order to provide direct, localised support.
“When we went into this, we didn't know whether we'd make a surplus or not,” Lee explains. “From the outset, we were trying to make sure that other charities helping people who are homeless could keep going themselves, because it was never going to be about just us. As a collective, we can do a lot more.”
While the Crisis cause galvanised the public to help those sleeping rough, the pandemic period has been a tumultuous time for a lot of charities. According to an analysis by Pro Bono Economics, by the end of this year, one in four UK charities face bankruptcy. This is largely due to a £10bn shortfall resulting from increased demand for services and a loss of fundraising money, as an unprecedented amount of people face income loss. Furthermore, available funds for donations have largely gone towards NHS and Covid-19 related charities.
“I have a general attitude which is when people choose to donate, whoever they donate to, I think that is great because it's a thing they didn't have to do,” Lee says. “So I can absolutely understand why the NHS and Covid-19 charities went to the front of people's minds. Homelessness, however, was one of the other issues that really raising people's consciousness.”
Lee explains that the experience of being in lockdown put homes under observation. “Never before had people so much time to consider the four walls that contained them. In the first couple of months, I became very aware of my home and its space. Whether it had a garden, whether my friends did. Was there a park nearby. And that consciousness of our home and living space, along with the sense of community, came to the fore,” he explains. “And so thinking of others living rough becomes more relevant and more mentally accessible. We saw an uplift in the level of support which enables us to respond because we understand what home means at the moment.”
Thanks to the changes made by the UK government, alongside charity conditions, collectively Crisis was able to temporarily provide shelter for those vulnerable to the coronavirus. It also lobbied the government to stop people being evicted, and drafted legislation that introduced a new duty on councils to provide emergency accommodation for all homeless people for the next 12 months.
It has also worked with Tesco Mobile, announcing a two-year partnership that will see Tesco donate £700,000 worth of phones, devices and connectivity in the first year.
Yet despite the hard work, Crisis is alarmed by the recession, and the government's decision to lift the eviction ban as of 23 August.“The projections I've heard suggests that this could be a jobless recession where significant numbers of people are going to be left unemployed. And what does that mean?” Lee asks.
“Which is why as this lockdown eases, we need to have some positives that we can see because nobody wants to go through this pandemic, without kind of changes. This leads us to the next part of the campaign, #HomesForAll.”
Created by newly-appointed ad agency FCB Inferno, #HomesForAll is an upbeat campaign that is designed to urge the UK public to keep up the good momentum, and make a commitment to ensure that the temporary measures already in place become permanent.
“The pandemic has shown that there are many ways people can be affected by homelessness and its people just as ourselves. We're all part of that same community, and its shown we can come together,” Lee insists.
“If everyone wants it to happen, significant change can be made as homelessness legislation can be changed quickly and effectively. That means politicians from every part prioritising it, and getting it high enough up the ladder to review.”
“It can be done, because it's been demonstrated,” Lee concludes.