Housing the ‘Everyone In’ cohort
As lockdown was announced at the end of March, councils were required to make provision for those individuals who were sleeping on the streets of their cities. Swiftly, and impressively, rooms were found in empty hotels and hostels across the UK, with support organisations, many of them Homeless Link members, getting involved to help support this evacuation.About 6,000 people were initially housed as part of the ‘Everyone In’ cohort. Now, nearly 15,000 people have been offered emergency accommodation across the UK.
This week, hotels will be allowed to reopen and many of the contracts that councils had with them will end. What will become of the Everyone In cohort? Dame Louise Casey, the government’s lead on homelessness, has announced additional funding for councils to address this issue but solutions are still be worked out.
At Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC), a social investment company, we have spent lockdown working with the charities we invest in through our Social and Sustainable Housing (SASH) fund. These hard-working, frontline, local charities across the UK provide supported accommodation for the most vulnerable groups in our society. We saw how they calmly stepped up to the challenge of difficult working conditions; hampered access to PPE; and increased demand (domestic violence services saw a 47% increase in April), and we offered our support.
We also watched as local councils showed that finding accommodation for all rough sleepers was possible, if there was the will and the wherewithal. We began to discuss with our charity investees how we could support them to offer a permanent solution to the Everyone In cohort. What we heard was that the mechanism of SASH could and should be extended to help offer longer-term accommodation for individuals who find themselves homeless.
So how does SASH work? Well, SASC offers an innovative solution to frontline charities who want to buy portfolios of dispersed street properties in their local area. The investment covers the total cost of buying properties including legal fees, staff costs and renovation costs. Repayments are flexible, and are designed to protect borrowers from the risks associated with conventional mortgages and leases. This allows charities to offer flexible accommodation in the places they need it, with full control over the management and upkeep of the houses. It gives them the ability to bid for bigger contracts in their cities without having to rely on private landlords, housing associations or councils to provide accommodation. It offers a secure way to expand provision without jeopardising frontline services.
For many of the charities we work with, they already work with clients who are homeless or who have spent time on the streets. Often, the problem has been that there has not been specific contracts or support payments available to do more. Now, it appears, that government is going to address this with the additional funds being given to councils to directly support rough sleepers.
Our charities have begun conversations with their councils to show that they are able and ready to offer a longer-term solution for the Everyone One in cohort. Councils, in turn, are responding positively with an expectation that support payments will come via new contracts or an expansion of on-going contracts. Through SASH, we have pledged to make money available to these charities to expand their property portfolios to house individuals who are being moved on from their lockdown emergency accommodation.
But we want to do more. We want to help charities who are not already part of SASH and who want to step up to help this group. If you are a charity anywhere in the UK that has a history of working with groups that are represented in the ‘Everyone In’ cohort, we want to hear from you. If access to decent accommodation is something you struggle with, then SASH can help you buy suitable housing in the right place for your client groups.
In a wealthy, progressive country such as the UK, it is a constant regret that we still have such a large number of homeless individuals and families. Now, we believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to address this problem head on. With SASH we have a fund that can support outstanding frontline organisations expand to help their communities. Done well, we can make sure that in this period of recovery, no one is left behind.