Systematic Review

legislation

How did different cities address homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Project Details

Last updated:

August 5, 2022

Status

Completed

Partners

Contact

Contact: hello@homelessnessimpact.org

Key reports

In 2020, homelessness became a public health emergency across the world. Many governments feared that those experiencing homelessness risked contracting and spreading the disease, and being cut off from access to food, support and shelter. Different cities across the world had different approaches to keeping people safe: this project explores those approaches.

Findings

  • 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

How we went about it

We gathered a series of case studies that explore how these successes across the globe were achieved in practice, what lessons can be learned and what can be taken forward in the future. The strongest focus is on the UK nations, but we present case studies and analysis from cities in North America, Europe and Asia. These show fascinating differences and similarities between systems for addressing homelessness around the world and how they were able to respond in the context of a global crisis.

Watch the video from our event where we discussed emergency pandemic measures on homelessness and how they differed internationally. We reflected on the lessons learned and explored what comes next.

What's next

It would be unfortunate to return to the pre-pandemic status quo. This project has highlighted that moving away from using shelters and working with different services has both welfare and health benefits.

A clear question is whether or not it should take a public health emergency to galvanise governments and support systems into making an intense effort to end street homelessness.

This is complex to answer. On one hand, many services have been amazed by the impact they were able to have, with the support and resources they were given throughout the pandemic .

On the other hand, continuing to give the same priority to resolving homelessness over the long term would require a real shift in our approach to housing and homelessness and the responsibilities of the state. In the absence of a public health emergency, are countries prepared to provide accommodation to all those who struggle to afford to rent a home and are at risk of street homelessness or sleeping on sofas as a result? 

This is a shift that countries and cities may not be willing to make, or that some may be more willing to make than others.

Project Details

Last updated:

August 5, 2022

Status

Completed

Partners

Funded by

Contact

Contact: hello@homelessnessimpact.org

Key reports

How did different cities address homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Topic
project dates
March 2022
project leads
Contact: hello@homelessnessimpact.org
How did different cities address homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic?
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