Homelessness services in 2020: what’s the story (Part One)? Everyone In
On 26th March 2020, during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government launched its Everyone In campaign. Everyone In required local authorities to take urgent action to house rough sleepers, and those at risk of rough sleeping, in order to protect people’s health and reduce wider transmission of Covid-19. This required ‘self-contained’ rooms (with toilets and food service) or rooms with minimal sharing of facilities and increased cleaning (for example, if more than one person had to share a bathroom) to enable people to practise social distancing and self-isolate, as appropriate.
This marked a truly health-led response to rough sleeping in London. The NHS, local authorities and voluntary-sector organisations came together to triage people according to their risk level from Covid-19 and support them into the most appropriate type of accommodation available:
· Covid Care, providing a higher level of medical support for those presenting with symptoms
· Covid Protect, providing support and care for people who are most at risk
· Covid Prevent, providing support and care or those who are less vulnerable.
Accommodation is a key part of an overall response evidenced to have prevented deaths and hospital admissions among those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
The new version of the Atlas launched this week provides new data about Everyone In. This includes information from new and evolving data sets from London Councils and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). As with all new data collection methods about complex interventions, there are anomalies and caveats; however, at a top-line level the information reveals vital information about what is now one of our core current responses to rough sleeping.
People in emergency accommodation – the peak of emergency accommodation use
This information is provided by London Councils. We took the week of the 24th June 2020 as the ‘height’ of Everyone In in, when the highest number of people were in emergency accommodation. By this time data collection had become reasonably well established, so there was a good shared understanding of what data to include in returns to London Councils. At this point local authorities across London reported a total of 5,398 people ‘in emergency accommodation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic’; 1,202 (just over a fifth, 22%) of these places were provided by the Greater London Authority (GLA).
Type of accommodation
Over a third of places in emergency accommodation were in hotel rooms. A later blog will explore the hotels in more detail, where else people were placed, and also how hotels have formed part of services response for people experiencing rough sleeping for years, albeit on a far smaller scale and with a far lower profile.
Of course, a hotel room is not a route off the streets in and of itself. The huge efforts to provide multi-agency support, including input from homelessness organisations, food, medical services, drug and alcohol services etc., were key to helping people stay in hotel accommodation. But, of course, the most important thing about emergency accommodation is – where next?
Moves to settled accommodation and supported housing
We take this information from data published by MHCLG in February; it is cited as ‘management information’ rather than official statistics. Settled accommodation is defined as a tenancy of at least six months either in the private sector or a tenancy with a housing association or the council. Supported housing is defined as any housing scheme where housing, support and sometimes care services are provided in one package depending on the individual needs of the person including long- and short-term schemes.
The data shows 4,185 confirmed moves to settled accommodation or supported housing as a result of Everyone In. This figure is cumulative, including all moves from March to January 2021, and is incomplete (it doesn’t yet include all moves to settled accommodation). Cross-referencing this with information collected by London Councils, it appears that most of the accommodation within the 4,185 is longer term, in private rented or social housing, as opposed to supported housing.
While not directly comparable, it is worth considering that the number of moves to settled accommodation from accommodation projects reporting to CHAIN each year is very low in comparison to the above (218 people moved from hostels which report to CHAIN to settled accommodation in 2019/20). So, this is really an amazing figure, especially given the high numbers of people going into settled accommodation.
There is growing evidence that well-supported moves to independent, settled accommodation are an effective intervention for those experiencing rough sleeping. The availability and flexibility of support provided to tenancies in the coming months and years will be critical to their long-term success, and how many truly represent a sustainable move away from homelessness for people, especially those facing challenges such as support needs (e.g. drug use) or very long periods without settled accommodation. Accommodation only has to be initially secured for six months to constitute ‘settled’; how long people are able to remain in tenancies and how easy it is to move on to new tenancies will also be a key factor in longer-term success.
There is a wide variation in these figures by borough. There are 11 boroughs reporting more than 100 moves on to settled accommodation, including Southwark with 840, Camden with 262 and Haringey with 232. Some boroughs have only reported a handful of moves on so far, including Hackney (five), despite relatively high numbers of people accommodated through the Everyone In initiative. In some cases this data is incomplete and additional move on information will be added in the coming weeks.
The pattern of move in into different types of accommodation varies according to the context. For example, in some areas with a large amount of hostel and supported housing provision, move on from these services to settled accommodation was a focus, which in turn freed up space for people in hotels to move into hostels and supported housing.
Emergency accommodation now
Further lockdowns and cold weather have resulted in additional pushes to ensure people are offered a safe, warm space to self-isolate. In the week of the 4th February 2021, there were 3,594 people in emergency accommodation, again with a fifth (20%) provided by the GLA.
While the data presented provides a unique insight into Everyone In, we know that there are many more things to consider. For example, where did people move to who didn’t go into settled accommodation? How many returned to the streets? How many people are ‘stuck’ in hotel provision? Are many of those in the February data the same as people represented in the data from June? How is the pace of move on developing? And, crucially, how well supported are moves to settled accommodation?
Some of these questions will be answered through statistics in time, others will need qualitative insights where data is not available.
We will be updating the ‘moves to settled and supported accommodation’ information in the coming weeks, hopefully when we have data for ‘Everyone In – a year on’.
As all of those working in homelessness know, this huge effort, underpinned by an unprecedented directive from central government, is only part of the story. Look out for the next blog to find out about the sector from figures presented in the 2021 Atlas.
 National Audit Office (2021) Investigation into the housing of rough sleepers during the COVID-19 pandemic
 Lewer D, Braithwaite I, Eyre T, White P, Aldridge R, Story A, Hayward A (2020) COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness in England: a modelling study
 A similar figure collected by London Councils which does not included supported accommodation is around 25% lower, suggesting that approximately three-quarters of moves to accommodation in total are to ‘settled accommodation’.
 CHAIN annual report, Greater London, April 2019 – March 2020 (GLA) (accessed February 2021)
 For example, see Blood, I et al (2020) Housing Led Feasibility Study for Oxfordshire, Crisis and Close to Home Delivering a National Housing First Programme in England
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Becky is an independent research consultant project managing the Atlas for the London Housing Foundation