The Everyone In initiative is a considerable achievement: the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (the Department), alongside local authorities and the voluntary sector moved at speed and with decisiveness to house people sleeping rough in spring 2020. In the first wave of the pandemic these actions may have avoided some 20,000 transmissions of COVID-19, while limiting deaths among this highly vulnerable population to an estimated 16. The scale of this achievement increased over the year, as growing numbers were helped under the initiative: by January 2021 the number of those who had been helped into accommodation had reached more than 37,000.
Nevertheless, this initiative has also exposed gaps in the Department’s approach to tackling rough sleeping. The Department has a target to end rough sleeping by May 2024, but does not have a strategy for achieving this outcome or maintaining it once met; nor does it have a clear understanding of how it will measure and report on progress. The scale of effort required to achieve this target may also be greater than previously suggested: the number of people accommodated in the first ten months of Everyone In (37,430) was nearly nine times the number of rough sleepers recorded in the Department’s last official snapshot before the start of the pandemic (4,266). This also raises further questions about whether the Department’s funding of local authorities to achieve its objectives is adequate and sufficiently long-term.
In some areas the Department lacks transparency and clarity in its communications. Despite carrying out joint planning with the Home Office, it has not offered clear guidance on the policies it expects local authorities to take in respect of non-UK nationals who have no recourse to public funds. This includes those who have been temporarily housed under Everyone In, which is up to 50% of those staying in hotels in London. The Department has sometimes shown a disappointing evasiveness regarding the data it holds on key trends; for example, it has failed to publish the updated figures it has been collecting on numbers of people sleeping on the streets. In other cases it has failed to collect or study data it should be monitoring—for example, whether it is on track to provide the 3,300 homes for people sleeping rough it has promised by the end of the 2020–21 financial year.