We must act now to prevent countless lives being destroyed when the eviction ban ends
A woman walking past a homeless person's tent erected outside a furniture store in Tottenham Court Road, London | PA Images
We need a strategic approach to preventing joblessness and homeless in the Covid-19 battle
We do not want to live in a society that is busted by austerity yet again. Let’s be clear – it is the challenge of every last one of us to ensure that the government carries out its promise to not see anyone lose their homes because of Covid-19 poverty.
Our Ride Out Recession Alliance campaign (RORA) is bringing together people and groups, businesses and local authorities, to ensure the government maximises the chances of creating security of work and housing. We have many fantastic organisations signed up, like Shelter, for example, who is demanding judges be given real power to ensure no-one is evicted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Similarly, there is only one big issue for me right now – how do we stop countless lives being destroyed once the eviction ban is lifted in England and Wales on 20 September? Is there a bigger issue that we are facing today?
Possibly the other big issue is to avoid a second ‘wave’ of Covid-19, which is more relevant now than ever before. That would devastate families who would lose loved ones, as well as adding to the devastation of job losses and hence the chances of eviction.
However, our RORA campaign is first and foremost about stopping people being evicted. Eviction will lead to homelessness. And homelessness is a terrible place to be in.
This is not about banning all evictions, for example, evictions due to anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, general rent arrears that were acquired prior to the coronavirus and so on – this is specifically about preventing Covid-related evictions, where people are at risk of losing their homes through no fault of their own.
What scares me is that, in Covid-19 times, we face the most humongous event of our lives: possibly hundreds of thousands of people being without a home. To push the government to both prevent and tackle this takes a tremendous amount of energy – energy that must be put to stopping hundreds of thousands becoming homeless, jobless, and lost. I’d like to reiterate that we can prevent this onslaught of lost jobs and lost homes by making the government get behind a recession survival strategy. Which is why we have built the RORA campaign – our society undoubtedly needs to build alliances between business, government, community and educators to work to stop homelessness occurring on this scale.
In my opinion, it is simply not enough, as some charities and policymakers have suggested, to ensure that local authorities have enough accommodation to assist those presenting themselves homeless. This outlook, in practice, is locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. We must strategise around prevention, and stop people slipping into the treacle of homelessness in the first place. Because, in many cases, it is impossible to get back out of it.
Homelessness is a terrible place to condemn our young to, and young people are the next generation. Protecting the needs of our future generations, and enhancing their wellbeing, is what my Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill is all about. It is co-sponsored by Caroline Lucas MP, and will is due to have its 2nd reading in the House of Commons on the 27 November. This Bill is paramount to helping government to achieve its ends – to provide stability and to avoid mass homelessness – both for this generation and the next.
Lord Bird is a crossbench peer