The end of the furlough scheme, together with the £20 reduction in Universal Credit and rising energy prices, could result in a sharp increase in the number of local people left homeless.
That’s the warning from Paul Hardman – the new CEO of Wirral Ark, Wirral’s independent homelessness charity – who took the helm in spring. It comes in the lead-up to International Homeless Day on 10 October and on the charity’s 30th Anniversary.
Furlough ended on 30 September, stopping Government support that has helped pay the wages of millions of UK workers throughout the pandemic. And energy bills could rise by up to 12% under a new Ofgen price cap that came into effect last week.
Mr Hardman warned that the squeeze on household finances could prove too much for hundreds of local residents, who are only a paycheque or two away from homelessness.
“We’re already aware of an increased level of need from very desperate people who are on the brink of homelessness,” he commented. “Together with the planned £20 reduction in Universal Credit, it risks being a perfect storm that could have a devastating effect in Wirral.”
Nationally, over 200,000 families are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness and a UK household is made homeless every 3.5 hours*. But Mr Hardman added this is only the tip of the iceberg.
“Homelessness isn’t just about rough sleeping,” he said, “It’s about all the people who are sofa surfing, living in inadequate temporary shelter or who do not feel safe at home due to abuse or domestic violence. It’s a story of hidden devastation – many people don’t come forward for support and so we’ll never fully know the numbers.”
But he also added that local support gives the charity every reason to be optimistic.
“People will always lose homes, and we aim to stand shoulder to shoulder with other local service providers to help stop that happening,” he concluded. “The support we’ve received from Wirral Borough Council and from local communities over the years has been fantastic – from volunteering to fundraising to partnership – and we’re hugely grateful. The crisis isn’t over, and winter is coming. We are appealing for continued support so that we can continue to provide emergency night shelter, supported hostel accommodation and move-on accommodation for as many people as we possibly can.”
Since Wirral Ark’s inception in 1991, the charity has accommodated over 5,166 homeless people and has provided healthcare to 3,444 – taking pressure off of local clinics and A&Es by providing tailored support.
30th Anniversary Video
The charity has released a 30th Anniversary video viewable on the website at https://wirralark.org.uk telling the story of how it has changed and adapted. It captures multiple perspectives from staff, volunteers and residents.
In the video, current hostel resident Liam explains how he became homeless at the age of 19 as a result of a breakdown in family relationships. He says, “You don’t think you’ll end up homeless…you don’t think your mum will kick you out. It was horrible, but it happens, doesn’t it?”
A second resident Noel, adds, “I’ll never forget when those two [Wirral Ark] people picked me up in a van. I felt like crying, I felt like hugging them both. Those two people saved my life, and I can never thank them enough.
“I think it would be very dangerous if you didn’t have organisations like Ark. A lot more people would be on the streets; a lot more people would die.”
For further information or to make a donation, visit https://wirralark.org.uk
To get help if you are homeless or at risk of homelessness, visit MainStay Liverpool
*Source: Crisis UK
Main image: Paul Hardman, CEO of Wirral Ark outside Mary Cole House.