How the COVID-19 crisis will become a homelessness crisis
With social problems expected to soar in coming months, Dr Lígia Teixeira of the Centre for Homelessness Impact examines what is needed to help Britain’s homeless
Picture: Nick Ansell PA
The Office of National Statistics has revealed that the UK is set to be one of the worst hit countries by the COVID-19 crisis. We now know that the fall in hospital deaths, which had seemed promising, is only part of the story. The number of care home deaths, thought to account for a third of COVID-19 deaths overall, are still rising. This crucial piece of information shows that it’s nearly impossible to make effective decisions without quality, comprehensive data.
Of course the absence of care home reporting in the UK’s official figures wasn’t the only missing piece of the puzzle. There have been thousands of pieces of research on the COVID-19 crisis globally but only a fraction consider the impact of the virus on people who are homeless.
Who is recording how many people who are homeless have been diagnosed with COVID-19? How many are struggling to self-isolate? And how many people will need a robust transition plan out of temporary accommodation once the crisis is over?
Without good data and evidence, our results are poorer. This is something we can understand, personally and professionally on a micro and macro level. In the age of information, there is a growing appreciation of the value of seeking out facts, and making informed decisions.
Yet in homelessness there is a dearth of rigorous evidence to help guide homelessness reduction and prevention methods, and partly because of this, despite ongoing efforts from leaders across the sector, we’re still experiencing stubbornly high levels of homelessness in some parts of the UK.
At the Centre for Homelessness Impact, when we first set out to gather sector experts to put together Using Evidence to End Homelessness, a book that advocates for an evidence-based approach to end homelessness, the world was a very different place.
However, in this new reality, shaped by COVID-19 and dogged with uncertainty it has become more urgent than we could have imagined back then. At a time like this, an evidence-led approach to ending homelessness is more important than ever before. Our proposed approach is threefold.
Firstly, improve the speed and quality of response by strengthening data foundations and data practices. Secondly, enable smarter decision making by building evidence about the policies and interventions that will achieve the most effective and efficient results. Thirdly, upskill the workforce and nurture evidence-based leadership to strengthen our capacity to act on robust evidence and insight.
Whether it’s creating a vaccine or extending our social distancing measures beyond the lockdown, it is clear that good quality data and evidence is vital to get us safely out of this situation.
Monitoring of cases, hotspots and timelines will help us prevent thousands of deaths and most importantly, learn from the crisis so if we’re ever faced with something like this again, we’ll be more prepared.
The government’s action to try and house all people who are street homeless was bold and decisive, and as those arrangements begin to come to an end, it is important we have a plan for what comes next that is underpinned by rigorous data and evidence.
It seems likely that the coronavirus pandemic will transform the economy beyond all recognition and the poorest in society will be the hardest hit, potentially pushing greater numbers of people into homelessness than ever before. An evidence-led approach is the only way we can avoid a homelessness crisis once the pandemic is over.
Those wishing to purchase Using Evidence to End Homelessness can do so here
This article was originally published in The Independent on the 3rd of May 2020