This month London Housing Foundation, in partnership with Homeless Link, launches a fully updated version of the Atlas of homelessness services. The 2020 release of the Atlas provides updated information about homelessness services, as well as brand new features including a map of specialist homelessness health services.
At the time of writing, homelessness services in London are dramatically altered in their day-to-day running due to Covid-19. All the organisations represented in the Atlas are part of the response to Covid-19, working to minimise the devastating impact the virus is having on people experiencing homelessness and related problems such as complex health needs.
Services across the sector have had to adapt their provision in response to the pandemic; for example, day centres are no longer operating ‘open access’ sessions and night shelters are shut because shared sleeping spaces pose a risk. Many of the staff and volunteers from these services are diverting their efforts to assist with the Covid-19 response; for example, day centres are providing food to hotels where people who were rough sleeping or staying in shelters are self-isolating. Services are also keeping in touch with people remotely via phone and email and even providing writing and drawing equipment and books to help people get through this challenging period.
Accommodation and outreach services have also been impacted. Hostel staff are helping their clients self-isolate and socially distance; supporting people to stay safe in communal housing settings is altering day-to-day life in hostels dramatically. Outreach teams are reaching out to people who are still on the streets and who are amongst the most vulnerable. They are working in an extremely challenging situation, continuously seeking to find solutions for people new to the streets, and to find accommodation for those with higher support needs, as quickly as possible.
This year the Atlas has two new features: the health map and a visualisation showing GLA-funded services. These both highlight services and teams that have been central to London’s homelessness services’ response to Covid-19. Homelessness specialist health staff have been triaging, and supporting others to triage, people to the safest and most appropriate accommodation options within hotel provision. The GLA has overseen the pan-London effort to help people off the streets and help those rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping to move to a safe place to self-isolate.
The Atlas provides an overview of service provision during ‘business as usual’, as opposed to reflecting the reality during this crisis response period. For example, the data reflects information about hostel/supported housing spaces, but it does not show that more than 1,000 people are now self-isolating in hotels and other safe locations across the capital as part of the emergency response to Covid-19. We are likely to see changes in the ongoing provision of services post-Covid-19, and if so, the Atlas will be adjusted to reflect this in the coming months and years.
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