This report from Housing Justice presents the findings of independent research into the experiences of night shelters in winter 2020/21, and learning from this extraordinary period. It is based on research undertaken with 59 people representing 11 shelters, including guests, coordinators and trustees, as well as data from Housing Justice and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Shelters were affected from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those open in March 2020 worked with local authorities and regional government to move guests from communal spaces to individual rooms or self-contained accommodation as part of the Everyone In initiative to prevent Covid-19 transmission.
The year 2020 was like no other – the usual ‘off season’ (during which winter shelters close, typically from April to November) was very active for shelters working to plan for winter 2020/21 in the face of great uncertainty. Some also contributed to efforts to support people in Everyone In provision across the whole year.
Government guidance in the form of ‘operating principles’ for winter shelters was published by MHCLG in mid-October 2021 confirming that communal sleeping spaces would be very hard to make safe and were to be strongly discouraged in favour of self-contained or single room options. Only two communal sleeping projects were identified by Housing Justice during the season.
This report is vital reading for anyone involved in Night Shelter operation.