Long term solutions for rough sleepers
The transition from the crisis response has varied, depending on the rates of COVID-19 in each country. Successful development of arrangements to prevent people returning to homelessness has presented a challenge.
The Policy Exchange revealed some examples of this variation, for example, in the UK where funding was provided for the ‘Next Steps’ program and additional support for rough sleepers of the 2020/21 winter were funded. However, while temporary housing solutions have been quite effective, money is also needed to provide supports to maintain housing. Assertive treatments alongside housing support requires a long term funding commitment. In London the transition away from providing crisis accommodation saw an overall increase in rough-sleepers by December 2020 has seen many people return to street homelessness. One participant in the round table estimated there may be as many as 15,000 people begging on London’s streets in late 2020.
In Canada, some hotels have been leased for two year time frames, while others have been purchased outright for transitional housing. The Federal Government committed funding to rapid housing and to buy more permanent housing for homeless people, and to aim to eliminate homelessness within ten years.
The US has a large scale homelessness problem with over 500,000 experiencing homelessness, and approximately one third of those sleeping completely unsheltered on any given night. HUD increased funding of the Emergency Shelter Grant program from US$300 million to US$4 billion and increased the scope of assistance that could be provided, renaming it the ‘Emergency Solutions Grant’. This allowed for different types of housing (e.g. hotels and motels).
In Victoria (Australia), the state most impacted by COVID-19, extended emergency support for up to 18 months. Launch Housing, a community organisation, is promoting a functional zero approach—with one outcome of the emergency response being that now many of those sleeping rough are known to services and accurate lists of those requiring help has been compiled. This may prove an effective way to end street homelessness. NSW and Victoria have also released new strategies to address homelessness in the long-term, Together Home and the From Homelessness to a Home Initiative (H2H).
This is the second in a four-part AHURI Brief series outlining the learnings from the AHURI-HUD led International Housing Policy Exchange in late 2020. The Policy Exchange opened a dialogue on international COVID-19 housing policy responses, with participants from Austria, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. It considered emerging evidence about the impact of the pandemic, and how each country was approaching housing issues generated or exacerbated by it.