SHAC has supported The Big Issue’s campaign to #StopMassHomelessness as part of its Ride Out the Recession initiative. SHAC co-signed an open letter which was published in ‘The I News’ national newspaper over the weekend (The Big Issue founder warns Government must step in to pay rent arrears to prevent ‘mass homelessness crisis’ – inews.co.uk)
Text of the letter
Dear Prime Minister,
For three decades, The Big Issue has supported people who have found themselves without a place to call home. Now, after a global pandemic has pushed so many into poverty, our priority is to put a stop to people becoming homeless in the first place. That’s why we are campaigning to Stop Mass Homelessness.
This is so timely as a huge number of people who have never before been at risk of losing their home will suddenly be unable to afford the roof over their head through no fault of their own. This is the stark reality we face unless the Government act now to keep people in their homes.
A shocking number of households were in rent arrears in summer 2021 – with estimates ranging from 431,820 in the Private Rented Sector, to 558,000 for Universal Credit claimants. Evictions and repossessions are also reaching the courts at an increasingly alarming pace. One household every 63 minutes was evicted in August and a third of cases explicitly mentioned Covid-19 related poverty.
That was the picture before. A perfect storm awaits now that measures in place to support people through the pandemic have come to an end.
The furlough scheme has been scrapped. That puts the 1.6 million people who were still on furlough last month at risk of losing their jobs – and their homes. Energy bills for millions have risen by up to £139 a year – pushing 488,000 additional households into fuel poverty. At the same time, we see Universal Credit cut by £20 – forcing families to choose between feeding their children or paying the rent.
As people are faced with additional costs and their income or financial support is cut – how can they be expected to support themselves? Through no fault of their own, hundreds of thousands of people risk losing their homes.
The Government was clear in its commitment that “no renter who has lost income due to Coronavirus will be forced out of their home”.
But this is exactly the situation that hundreds of thousands are facing. We need action to support tenants and landlords to stop a mass homelessness crisis like never before.
We saw the good progress that can be made on homelessness through the Everyone In scheme. Now, we need to build on this progress and see more bold and sensible policies like this again from the Government, to prevent families and individuals being forced into destitution and homelessness – which is more costly for the Government and damaging for society.
Can you make good on your Government’s promise?
We need you to commit to keep people in their homes – through ending no fault evictions, paying off the £360 million rent arrears and supporting people into sustainable jobs and training.
Lord John Bird
Founder of The Big Issue
Notes to editors:
The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelessness Campaign
The Big Issue is campaigning to #StopMassHomelessness.
Following a global pandemic, which has pushed thousands into poverty and put many at risk of losing their homes, we need measures in place to prevent a national problem of mass homelessness.
Thirty years of supporting people sleeping rough has shown it’s simply not enough to get people off the streets. We need to stop people becoming homeless in the first place.
Supporting people to stay in their homes and in sustainable employment is key in preventing people from entering a cycle of debt that could lead to homelessness.
To prevent hundreds of thousands of newly homeless households, The Big Issue has three key asks of the Government:
- Pay off the £360 million in rent arrears and provide additional support to help those unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to Covid-19.
- Put an end to no fault evictions.
- Provide jobs and training in sustainable industries.
11 October 2021
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.