Northampton outreach worker fears 'massive surge' in town's homelessness as country emerges from lockdown

"There were promises when they were put in these hotels that they would be housed, but that didn't happen."

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 10:52 am

The leader of an outreach team which supports vulnerable people in Northampton says she is 'expecting a massive surge of homelessness' in the town.

Toni Mella Sweeney is the leader of Helping Hands UK which visits Northampton's All Saints' Church every Monday to provide hot meals for vulnerable people in the town.

In a recent Facebook post talking about the latest outreach session on Monday (June 21), Helping Hands said: "A great outreach but a very sad situation, which is growing worse and worse.

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The outreach team at All Saints' Church on Monday (June 21)
The outreach team at All Saints' Church on Monday (June 21)

"At one time we were only in need of 30 meals, this evening we gave out 120."

Chronicle & Echo spoke to Toni after seeing the Facebook post.

She said: "Around 60 vulnerable people came down to us. We had ten volunteers down there between 6am and 9am.

"My team are amazing. We go out every Monday and all through lockdown we have had queues of 10 to 30 people.

"But what does this recent turn out tell you? Now Covid is over, people are leaving their emergency accommodations provided by the council.

"There were promises when they were put in these hotels that they would be housed, but that didn't happen.

"We are expecting a massive surge of homelessness through people who lost their jobs due to Covid and can't pay the rent."

Toni is referring to the government's 'Everyone In' scheme when talking about emergency accommodation.

'Everyone In' was an emergency scheme launched in March 2020 as the pandemic hit the country.

It saw local councils in England given an initial share of £3.2m to provide accommodation for rough sleepers, often in hotels or hostels.

Toni said that she has seen these hotels used by homeless people turn into 'drug dens', 'asylums', and 'unacceptable' places to live.

If anyone would like to donate to Helping Hands, then they can find the team's Facebook page here. Helping Hands is specifically looking for a vehicle or driver to help with deliveries.

West Northamptonshire Council was approached by this newspaper and asked:

-What is the council doing to address homelessness?

-Is there a rise in homelessness in the town?

-What difficulties does the council face when accommodating the homeless?

-Are the high figures of homelessness from pre-covid times coming back?

In response, Cllr Adam Brown, from West Northamptonshire Council, said: “We and our previous councils have worked hard with partners over the last year, as part of the Single Homelessness Forum in Northampton, to ensure rough sleepers have access to the support they need.

“This has resulted in many rough sleepers addressing the root causes of their situation and being offered secure housing. Our staff work tirelessly every day with those who are harder to engage with and who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

“As part of the ‘Everyone In’ initiative, councils in West Northamptonshire provided temporary accommodation for almost 200 rough sleepers, many of whom went on into long-term tenancies.

"These stories of people managing to make a fresh start in their lives are incredibly powerful and we want to ensure that anyone in West Northamptonshire who finds themselves without a home has that second chance to find the stability they need in their lives.

“We’re conscious that the coronavirus pandemic has placed even more people at risk of finding themselves homeless, and perhaps even on the streets. We will do absolutely everything in our power to assess the extent of that and work out how we can help to address it.”