What does it mean to be homeless, especially during a global pandemic with safe spaces being closed and with limited people to talk to?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects on our communities. In the UK alone, tens of thousands have tragically passed away as a result of the virus. Sofa surfers, rough sleepers and homeless people using shelters had nowhere to go meaning they did not have access to washing facilities, food supplies or a safe place to stay.  In March 2019, the government-backed a scheme called ‘‘Everyone In’’, and the scheme rehoused more than 15,000 rough sleepers in hotels and temporary accommodation across the country. Although not without its flaws, it was at least decisive in saving lives. While the government was fighting the good fight, so were local charities.

One of those charities on the front lines is One Roof Leicester. Karyn Aviani administrator for One Roof Leicester says ‘‘I  think that  the everyone in the scheme was amazing, but I was also really really angry. I speak for myself and not the charity I was really angry. And I thought to myself you know if that money was the whole time why have people been living like this?’’ While the  ‘‘Everyone in’’ scheme has undoubtedly been a haven it has also been heavily criticised as many feel that the government could have done more to help homeless people in the long run. ‘‘Because hundreds of people in Leicester came out of the woodwork and were suddenly accommodated when the numbers of homeless people that Leicester city council had were not nearly as high.  It: highlighted how much-hidden homelessness there is.’’

 Six feet away; they said – but what does that mean for people who have no place to stay, how did charities that provide those living spaces do it. Eilidh Stringer , a representative for action homeless, said. ‘‘Obviously, it had a very practical; impact on us immediately we have quite a few larger properties where there are lots of people living under one roof.‘‘ During lockdowns, restrictions on our daily lives were immediate and, for peacetime, unprecedented in scale. What did that mean for Action Homeless? ‘‘People needed to have self-contained living spaces so on a practical level we had to rearrange our accommodation and make sure that people did have access to their bathrooms. How do they keep rising to the challenge? ‘‘That was a huge practical challenge for us and some of the stuff that we introduced because of covid we kept. We do expect unfortunately lots of people in need of support from action homeless and other homelessness organisations and the local authority.’’

What about organisations that are working with the youth. It is estimated that there are around 86,000 young people who are homeless. Eddie Bailey the CEO of Park Lodge project says ‘‘We take in a lot of young people through placement and home environments that have broken down what we tend to find is those relationships  do not  happen overnight.’’ So did the government do enough?  while everyone in the scheme was impactful it was not beneficial in the long run.‘‘ It was a temporary scheme with no follow-up. And to be honest it was comical. Taking rough sleepers with all the problems that they come with into hotel accommodations.’’

So maybe the picture of homelessness is not as clear cut as it seems. Although the government’s everyone’s in the scheme. Has saved thousands of lives work still needs to be done. It did however provide a new approach to homelessness. It gave councils and their partners the tools and opportunities to get people housed. Although it is a temporary solution it could be something that is explored as we look at new ways to help those post-pandemics.