Homeless offered ‘a lifeline’ in ‘haunting silence’ of lockdown

Liverpool Council and local communities have promised to continue to help and offer accommodation to rough sleepers, as the pandemic causes yet another lockdown.

The movement comes after the government made the decision not to provide emergency accommodation for the homeless like they did during the first national lockdown.

The government confirmed that it would not re-launch the ‘Everyone In’ programme which would house the most vulnerable, despite the worsening covid crisis and freezing temperatures.

However Liverpool Council has said it will continue to fund emergency accommodation for all rough sleepers, as well as Liverpool charities such as the Whitechapel centre.

Councillor Paul Brant said the government’s decision was ‘callous’.

He said: “I’m shocked at the callousness of this Government decision. The virus is spiralling out of control and yet the Government condemns the most vulnerable people in society to freeze and be at huge risk of getting Covid. Any rough sleeper who catches Covid then poses a wider risk of community transmission.

“Liverpool Council pledges to continue to offer safe accommodation for any rough sleeper in the City, whatever the Government says. This is both the morally right thing to do, and the proper health protection policy. I beg the Government to alter its policy and fully fund this approach across the nation..”

Ruth McCaughley from the Whitechapel Centre , the Leading homeless and housing charity for the Liverpool region, said it’s a worrying time for those on the streets of Liverpool but there is support and accommodation available.

She stressed that it’s important for people sleeping on the streets to ‘stay safe during lockdown’ and encouraged them to accept their offers of help.

The centre has been helping people who find themselves homeless for many years but since the pandemic started they’ve needed to offer more support than usual.

A former rough sleeper, who is now indoors thanks to the Whitechapel Centre, said: “It’s too cold to be out overnight and the streets are so quiet.

“It’s hard to stay indoors all the time though when I usually spend all my day on the streets.”

Help for rough sleepers

We want to find rough sleepers a safe place to sleep and help them build a life away from the streets.

Worried about a rough sleeper?

If you are worried about someone who is sleeping rough, call our 24-hour ‘Always Room Inside’ helpline on 0300 123 2041. You can also make an online referral.

Support for rough sleepers

The following support is available for rough sleepers.

  • Labre House night hub – open from 8pm to 8am, 365 days of the year, for people sleeping rough.
  • Whitechapel outreach service a street-based service that helps rough sleepers into accommodation and access other support.
  • Whitechapel enablement centre – offers welfare advice, access to health services, and mental health and addiction workers. Rough sleepers can also drop in 8am-10am every day to shower, get clean clothes and have breakfast.
  • Housing support from Housing Options – based in St John’s Market in the city centre. This service offers advice and support on how to find a new home.

Another who wishes to remain anonymous said ‘thank god’ for the help they received during the lockdown, they added: “It has been a lifeline to me.

“Now I have my own place I am still receiving support which is so beneficial to my move on. I now have a brighter view of my future.”

While a third , who took part in the Whitechapel’s basic IT course, said: “I can now link in with my family through Whatsapp and also communicate with my friends. This is so important now with all the lockdown restrictions.”

A homeless person in the city centre on Christmas Eve
(Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

Previously, the ECHO reported that reduced footfall and cash on the streets due to the pandemic had impacted homeless.

One rough sleeper, who preferred to remain anonymous, said : “I was selling the Big Issue until the lockdown, the Big Issue was suspended and I had no income.

“I used to be able to pay people I knew to stay in their flats, but without that I had to beg.

“It was very difficult as there was no one in the city centre. People gave me food as they had no money on them.”

Another said: “The lockdown was a real experience; it was very scary; the silence was haunting.

“There was no one around to give out food and a lot of people don’t have cash anymore.”

A third said if it wasn’t for Whitechapel they’d be on the streets, they said: “I went inside with Whitechapel at the start of lockdown. There was no point going out as there was no one to give money so I had to reduce my drinking.

“It was the best thing that could have happened, Now I’ve stopped drinking and have just moved into a flat of my own. I don’t want to go back out on the streets.”

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Speaking about the help available in Liverpool and the wider Merseyside region, Ruth told the ECHO: “This is a very concerning time for anyone who is faced with homelessness but our services remain available.

“We are able to provide housing advice by phone or online chat to anyone who is worried about their housing situation.

“Our outreach teams continue to go out every day to find people who are sleeping rough and respond to calls to the 24 hours phone line (0300 123 2041).

“We continue to have access to temporary accommodation, in supported accommodation, aparthotels and hotels in the city, which we can offer to people in immediate need of accommodation.”

Alongside charities such as the Whitechapel Centre, our local authority has been continuing to provide shelter for rough sleepers throughout the pandemic and after the initial government funding ran out – leading to a budget overspend of between £3 and 4 million.

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A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council said: “We remain committed to supporting anyone who is at risk of homelessness or at risk of rough sleeping in Liverpool.

“As always, anyone who is at risk of losing their home is asked to contact our Housing Options team as soon as possible by calling 233 3061.

“The pandemic has brought particular challenges in terms of keeping people who are rough sleeping safe and our offer continues. No-one in Liverpool needs to sleep rough, there is always help available and anyone in Liverpool who does not have accommodation will be supported to move off the streets.

“We continue to offer help and support seven days per week and are working with accommodation providers, including aparthotels, to make sure that safe and appropriate solutions are available to everyone who needs it.

“Since the start of the pandemic over 550 single people who were at risk of sleeping rough were provided with emergency Covid-secure accommodation with the majority of this number prevented from ever having slept on the streets.

“Anyone who is concerned about someone who is sleeping rough can call the 24-hour Always Help Available helpline 0300 123 2041.”

Liverpool Echo – Liverpool News