Homeless People “In Lockdown” Before Pandemic Says Report

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A new report released by Justlife Foundation has shown that for many living in temporary homeless accommodation during the pandemic, life remains unchanged because they were “already self-isolating” before the COVID-19 crisis hit. This comes as the Westminster Government has given Local Authorities in England more money to help with homeless people. However, many council’s have said it’s simply not enough given the number of people in temporary accommodation.

In contrast to most other people in England, the majority of research participants said that their living situations were already so challenging that the virus was not the dominant factor in their lives and they were “more or less already in lockdown”.

Based on 19 qualitative interviews conducted with homeless individuals from Brighton and Manchester between May and June 2020, the report sheds light on the impact of the pandemic and the first national lockdown on single homeless households, whose experience is often hidden from public view.

One research participant said:

“With my anxiety I can’t get on public transport or anything. So I sit in my room all the time on my own anyway. I do a lot of thinking, I barely sleep as my head does overtime.”

Another compared their room to a prison cell:

“It’s like a jail more than anything this hostel, the rooms are the same size as a cell. That’s what it is, like a jail.”

In addition to mental health and isolation, other key themes that emerged from the report were trauma and disability.

The report found one man in a wheelchair up a flight of stairs, unable to access the shower room on a different floor. Another man told the report that self-isolation was not really an issue for him, as he had already been stuck in his room for six years. 

“My legs went bad about 6 years ago. I’ve not been out of the house for 6 years… I’ve not been able to go out anyway. I’ve been inside all the time.”

Others described that they were surrounded by death and did not expect to make it out of temporary accommodation alive. 

“One of my neighbours on the right side, three months ago I found him dead. A month ago my neighbour on my left side I found him dead…Four people have died there now in the last six months.”

From the research, it is clear that while the virus itself can and does affect anyone, lockdown did not affect everyone equally. 

For those living in emergency and unsupported temporary accommodation, often already with complex mental health needs, social isolation and loneliness existed long before the pandemic. 

Help and support for people in homeless accomodation needs to be increased without delay. Without it the report makes clear they will continue being lonely, stuck inside and unable to leave.

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