Homelessness: what can we learn from the pandemic’s surprising success story?

A new report reveals how homelessness was one of the ‘success’ stories of the pandemic – and sets out the lessons for the long term.

Centre for Homelessness Impact and IPPO Cities

In March 2020, homelessness became a public health emergency.

Governments feared that those who couldn’t stay at home risked contracting and spreading the disease, and being cut off from access to food, support and shelter.

Within a few weeks, thousands of people experiencing homelessness in the UK were accommodated and supported, with a large proportion later moving from emergency to settled accommodation.

For example, rough sleeping in England fell by 37% from 4,270 on a single night in autumn 2019 to 2,690 the following year and to 2,440 people in autumn 2021.

A report by The Centre for Homelessness Impact and The International Public Policy Observatory (IPPO) suggests there are major policy lessons to be learned in order to tackle homelessness.

Download the report.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Homelessness was the surprising ‘good news’ story of the pandemic in many global cities
  • Success relied on a clear mandate from government or city authorities to do things differently
  • Normal eligibility criteria for assistance was suspended
  • Government, local authorities, health services and the voluntary sector and in some cases business (e.g. hoteliers) worked flexibly and stepped up to meet the emergency
  • The experience presents an opportunity for a decisive shift away from the use of shelters towards own-room accommodation, which is safer and offers greater dignity

The release of this paper will be followed by an event taking place online on Thursday 31 March, 3.30-5.30 pm BST. Book your free ticket.