16 Mar 2023

Homeful report discovers COVID-19 response provided a unique opportunity to end rough sleeping in England

A new report on homelessness has found that the government response in England to the COVID-19 pandemic provided a unique opportunity to end rough sleeping. The research showed that rapid and agile ways of working in the public and charitable sector saw street homelessness end overnight. 

The report’s author, professor of housing and social inclusion at De Montfort University Jo Richardson, is concerned that the number of people sleeping on the streets, and families living in bed and breakfast accommodation, is rising post-pandemic. The benefits gained during the pandemic, are not being embedded for the longer term; and she calls for longer-term strategic funding from government, to deliver the scale of social housing for rent, that is required to end all forms of homelessness, for good.

Analysing research and learning completed during her term as president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Jo’s new report, Homeful: exploring housing-led approaches to resolve and prevent homelessness details the findings of the research project and charitable campaign.

Launched in July 2021, Homeful explored housing-led approaches to resolve and prevent all forms of homelessness across the UK. Today’s report highlights ideas for those working across both the private rented and social housing sectors, explores key emerging themes, and provides detailed analysis.

Jo Richardson, the report author, said: “There was so much innovative thinking and practice by housing providers and charities during the pandemic response.  This was enabled by government funding to bring ‘Everyone In’ from the streets, because homelessness was recognised at the time as a public health emergency. 

“Now the urgency of the pandemic crisis has gone, and government funding has retracted once more, we are in danger of not reaping the benefits of the more dynamic and joined-up practices that briefly enabled an end to rough sleeping. A housing-led approach to resolving and preventing all types of homelessness is what is needed, but this is of course contingent on sufficient resource of properly affordable, social housing, for rent.

The report includes a detailed list of conclusions and ideas for the future. This includes:

  • The need for more proactivity, less reactiveness and less paternalism within the sector
  • A longer-term approach to government funding to increase the provision of properly affordable, social rented, housing to meet increased demand
  • The importance of lived-experience and listening to the customer when developing and delivering services
  • A larger focus on tenancy sustainment, as this proactive approach is a vital element of homelessness prevention
  • The necessity of agile joint working to resolve and prevent homelessness – housing, health, social care and criminal justice organisations need to work together strategically. During the global pandemic there were some new and strengthened partnerships with housing and health.

Gavin Smart, chief executive of Chartered Institute of Housing said: “There is so much learning here for us as a profession and a sector. Jo did some incredible work during her time as CIH president, and I’d like to thank her for her research, her commitment and her inspiring fundraising effort.

As the professional body for housing, we will help to ensure housing professionals across the sector are aware of Jo’s findings and begin to make positive changes based on the conclusions of her research. We must do all we can to ensure everyone in our communities has a safe, secure, and affordable place to call home.”

With the help of professionals and organisations in and around the sector, Jo raised over £54,000 during her Homeful campaign for the charity group ‘End Youth Homelessness’, a charity aligned with Jo’s campaign to prevent homelessness across the whole of the UK.

An industry research grant was awarded, to support recruitment of a research assistant to work on the Homeful campaign project, from Morgan Sindall Property Services, Longhurst and Home Group.

Anneka Gill, transformation director, Morgan Sindall Property Services said:Given recent numbers that an estimated 271,421 people in England are without a home, this research is coming at pivotal time to provide housing-led solutions to homelessness along with crucial insights into how we can work together to resolve and prevent homelessness within our communities.  

“By collaborating with organisations across the industry we can create sustainable solutions and strengthen the impact we have in tackling this issue. Everyone deserves a quality home that provides them with the opportunity to live a better life, and we are proud to be part of resolving and preventing all forms of homelessness across the UK.”

About Professor Jo Richardson

Jo is associate dean and professor of Housing and Social Inclusion at De Montfort University, Leicester. She was elected as vice president of the Chartered Institute of Housing in 2019, and was CIH president from July 2021 to September 2022.

Find out more

The report

You can download the full Homeful: exploring housing-led approaches to resolve and prevent homelessness report here.

You can download the executive summary of the report here.