Homeless people and rough sleepers who have been helped inside during lockdown could be supported to access the city’s vacant properties in a bid to prevent them from returning to the streets.
The move, which will be considered by Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet, has been praised by national homelessness charity Crisis, with Chief Executive Jon Sparkes saying it: “provided clear evidence that homelessness can be ended for good.”
Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, Liverpool City Council has worked with partners to make sure that people with nowhere to live were relocated to temporary accommodation that best suited their needs.
Working with the city’s hospitality industry, the City Council was able to identify 180 single occupancy aparthotels and 50 other addresses for family groups, to keep people safe during the outbreak.
As the city comes out of lockdown, it is likely that these properties will return to commercial use.
Liverpool was the first city to open an all-year-round rough sleeper hub, Labre House, which offered shelter to anyone regardless of their circumstances. As the coronavirus outbreak took hold Labre House was no longer a viable solution due to its communal nature.
The Council’s Homeless Recovery Plan has meant that the council has supported around 220 people into emergency accommodation during the lockdown period.
Now, as the lockdown rules relax and the city begins to re-open, the council intends to build on this by ensuring that anyone moving out of emergency accommodation, where appropriate has the chance of a permanent home.
Before lockdown, vacant social housing spaces across the city were advertised through the Property Pool Plus housing allocation scheme. Potential applicants were invited to bid for available properties with the tenancy being awarded in terms of priority.
The new plan means that the bidding system has been temporarily suspended and vacant properties will be made available to those moving on from hostel and hotel accommodation.
The Council has so far identified 370 cases which would benefit from the new system, whilst the housing associations have so far made more than 200 properties available of which more than half have been matched with suitable applicants.
The proposed new scheme will be funded through redirecting existing council resources. The council and its partners will also be utilising funding from the £105m pot announced by the Government this week to support local authorities in preventing rough sleepers from returning to the streets.
As well as finding properties for people to move into, the tenants will be further supported through furniture packages and homemaker packages including crockery, cutlery and utensils.
Key local homeless services, The Whitechapel Centre, Riverside Housing Association and Creative Support will continue to provide help and advice to the new tenants when they move in.
Properties that are not appropriate for this group will continue to be allocated through the normal process. Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet will consider the proposal at its meeting on Friday 3 July.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of national homelessness charity Crisis, said:
“It is brilliant to hear that Liverpool City Council, housing associations and charities are working together to ensure that those who have been sheltered in hotels and temporary accommodation during the outbreak have somewhere safe and settled to live once the hotel contracts come to an end. If there is one silver lining from the pandemic it is that, with the right support, people who were sleeping rough may never have to return to the streets again.
“The outbreak has brought the value of home into sharp relief – everyone should have somewhere safe and settled to call home. This combined effort will not only help to end the homelessness of hundreds across the city, but provides clear evidence that homelessness can be ended for good when the political will is there.”
Michelle Langan, Founder & Trustee, The Paper Cup Project, which works with rough sleepers in the city centre said:
“It’s welcome news that Liverpool City Council has made a pledge to continue their support for our rough sleepers and homeless friends as we move out of lockdown. As the first council to offer this continuation of support, Liverpool once again leads in their approach to tackling homelessness. We look forward to being part of the plans to support our homeless friends into their new lives, and hope that other councils across the country will follow this lead and commit to keeping all rough sleepers inside.”