Donna Kelly, our Group Director of Support and Neighbourhoods shares her thoughts on how our Jigsaw Support services are supporting homeless people and families, and those at risk of homelessness during a global pandemic.
We all aware of the now-regular advice to ‘stay home’ or ‘work from home’ and practise social distancing. But over these last few months, this has placed even more strain on individuals and families who are, or may be at risk of becoming homeless. Facing homelessness is traumatic enough, but has been particularly heightened by the current coronavirus crisis.
Referrals to our Housing Advice Service in Tameside and Knowsley have increased by 40% in the last six months.
Our team has had to work round the clock and on the frontline to support the most vulnerable, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to find and place people in suitable accommodation .
We currently have over 200 people in temporary accommodation, who we are working tirelessly to rehouse in permanent accommodation.
We are making some headway, since lockdown we have re-housed 82 families with a statutory homeless duty, but there are still many more who need permanent and suitable homes.
As part of Greater Manchester Housing Providers (GMHP) pledge we are working hard to urgently rehouse those people currently in hotel or temporary accommodation and making our void properties available for them as a priority, as well as supporting our other Local Authority partners.
We are not evicting any resident if they are in arrears as a result of Covid-19 difficulties such as job losses or lack of work, if they engage and work with us to get back on track.
And we are looking to partner with local charities who have accommodation and support expertise but need a housing provider to help deliver that.
Our aim has always been to reach and help people before they get to crisis point. All of our preventative, community, and volunteer programmes have continued during lockdown.
Yes, there is still a long road ahead, but we are doing all we can. I am very proud of what we have achieved so far but know there is more to be done to prevent a further increase in homelessness.
It is down to us as a sector to continue to support people and hopefully in turn reduce the numbers returning to rough sleeping.
Reaching individuals and families so we can help is so important, and while we want to be socially distant, we don’t want anyone to be socially isolated. “
This article was first featured in Inside Housing, on 13 October 2020.