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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 October 2020

Tories reduce winter homeless funding: reverse the cuts,use the empty homes!

  (Click to enlarge)

Jack Jeffery, Secretary, Unite union housing workers' branch

The government announced 12 million of additional cold winter funding to support rough sleepers on 13 October. This will be nowhere near enough.

Some will go to councils in England to provide further self-contained accommodation, and the rest will go to community groups to provide 'Covid-safe' night shelters. But it is actually less than the 13 million the Tories gave to cold winter projects last year.

The fall should be no surprise. Despite the rhetoric, spending on homeless services is down by over half a billion a year since 2008-09, according to St Mungo's and Homeless Link. This funding should be restored in full. Meanwhile, homelessness has soared.

Toxic combination

And the toxic combination of rising unemployment, the end of the eviction ban, struggling public services, and insecure private rented housing is placing many more people at risk of homelessness this winter. Shelter estimated in July that 230,000 private renters were at risk of eviction when the ban lifted, because of arrears built up since the start of the pandemic.

With the right resources homelessness is preventable. The government's 'Everybody In' scheme was one of the few positive initiatives to emerge from lockdown.

Almost 15,000 homeless people were placed in emergency accommodation, often in empty hotels. This had a real impact in preventing the spread of the virus and saving lives. The timely response avoided 266 deaths during the first wave, as well as 21,092 infections, 1,164 hospital admissions, and 338 intensive care admissions, according to a recent study in the Lancet.

I see the effect of this in my own role as a homelessness worker in central London. However, the 'Everybody in' scheme is now ending.

Nowhere to go

People who are new to the street have nowhere to go, with limited accommodation options. The normal support network of day centres, advice services and food banks is struggling to operate under coronavirus.

Everyone should have the right to a decent, affordable home. There are over 200,000 empty properties in the UK, estimates the pressure group Action on Empty Homes.

The impact of coronavirus means that demand for hotel accommodation in cities is at a record low. An August study into hotel occupancy in London found an average of just 25%, with analyst STR reporting some as low as 10%.

As an immediate step, councils should requisition empty houses and hotels for homeless people. The government should declare that arrears accrued during the pandemic will be forgiven, with compensation to small landlords on the basis of proven need.

Combining these immediate measures with a programme for mass building of council housing, democratic rent controls, and full funding of homelessness services, we could properly tackle homelessness.

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In The Socialist 21 October 2020:


Health before profit - Work or full pay

Wales 'firebreak' lockdown fails to protect workers

Liverpool lockdown: suspicion and anger

Newcastle lockdown: stress and breakdowns

Leicester lockdown: disillusionment and anger


Why the Socialist Party is backing Hugo Pierre for Unison general secretary


Nigeria protests: 'This movement needs to fight the whole rotten capitalist system'

Horrific murder in Paris: fight intolerance and racism!

South Africa: Mass day of action for permanent jobs and a living wage


Tories reduce winter homeless funding: reverse the cuts,use the empty homes!

World capitalism's terrified strategists abandon austerity - for now


Test and Trace U-turn on stopping local case reporting

Oxbridge gets private Covid tests: pool resources to test us all!

Millennials disillusioned with 'democracy'

Under the microscope


RMT: Programme to fight redundancies and cuts

Action on Covid transmission in schools now

FCC dismiss Unison activist Tony Smith

Optare workers strike over pay broken 'promise'

Solidarity with Deliveroo Couriers in York


NHS workers

Students: Give us our money back

Fight for your future at the online rally

Southampton: Coxford community condemns racist attack

Socialism 2020: Will you help our finance appeal?

Selling the Socialist: increase in NHS anger

Truth about Zane: Cover-up Tories crack

Kent: Chaotic privatised asylum process

Teignmouth hospital closure threat ... again!

Readers' opinion

Books that inspired me: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Beware the billionaires bearing gifts

Disabled students let down by "rotten education system"

The Socialist Inbox


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