Homelessness sector still needs urgent financial support
The national mobilisation to support people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented and has undoubtedly saved many lives.
However, our members have told us how this remarkable response taken place against a backdrop of severe and worrying financial strain for many of the homelessness organisations leading the way.
Drops in income from fundraising and Payment by Results contracts; rent and service charge arrears; delays to billing out support contracts and; delays to payments for furloughed staff have all disrupted cash flow, with one charity estimating an up to £10 million initial shortfall that will need to be plugged with reserves. Loss of Housing Benefit income is another major concern, particularly in light of increased numbers of voids.
At the same time, extraordinary measures taken to keep staff and clients safe mean that operational costs are shooting up. One provider in the South-East estimated an additional £30,000 per month was being spent on agency staff, and another estimated up to £1 million additional food costs. Deep cleaning, PPE, private transport for staff and setting up and resourcing additional accommodation units and services are other key areas where homelessness organisations have had to absorb extra costs running into the hundreds of thousands.
While the recently announced charity funding boost is welcome, it is lacking the scope and scale needed to support homelessness charities at the frontline of the COVID-19 response. This is especially true given the almost 40% reduction in statutory funding suffered by accommodation providers in the past decade.
Over the past few weeks, we have been urging Government to deliver a dedicated emergency fund directly to homelessness organisations, something supported by over 30 accommodation providers. The size of investment in this fund should reflect the projected losses reported by services across the country.
Homelessness services have been at the frontline of the national response to COVID-19. In order to see through this crisis and support a renewed and innovative post-pandemic homelessness system, we need additional investment now.
Homeless Link will continue to gather this information from members and work with Government and partners to respond. Is your organisation seeing a change in income or increases to your operational costs? To share your experience, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org