As an umbrella body for the homelessness charity sector, Homeless Link was able to help to provide some financial stability to its membership, its submission for the Rathbones Covid-19 Response Award said.
“Homeless Link has a grant-giving function, securing investment in the sector,” it said. “Annually, we have about £3m to distribute and 2020 was expected to be similar. With the advent of Covid-19 the financial security of frontline services was thrown into disarray, as local fundraising events, the bread-and-butter income for many, halted and charity shops closed.
“We immediately recognised the need to secure funds for the sector. Launch in May 2020, we created the Covid-19 Homelessness Response Fund from scratch, working with MHCLG, the National Lottery Community Fund and Comic Relief.”
This fund distributed £13.8m to 335 charities with annual turnover from £20,000 to over £5m. Homeless Link said its grants of up to £100,000 “stopped many frontline services from closing their doors for good”.
Its support extended beyond just financial support as it continued to provide advice, albeit moving into the online realm rather than face-to-face.
It launched weekly webinars and “secured high-level external speakers on a regular basis to provide direct updated information, including Eddie Hughes MP (parliamentary under secretary of state for rough sleeping and housing), Dr Bola Owolabi (director of health inequalities, NHS England) and others”.
It also converted its Leadership Summit into a Leadership Support Group, which “provided participants with a chance to open-up and get peer support alongside guidance from Homeless Link”.
The charity’s conference programme was redesigned as four online conferences, reframed to reflect the impact of Covid-19, focused on Rough Sleeping; Everyone In for Good; Housing First and the impact of Covid-19 on housing provision; and Homelessness and Migration.
Influencing the government
Homeless Link also told the judges that it had been able to successfully influence the government during the pandemic.
“Our campaigning has helped to change government policy,” it said. “They are now taking a longer-term holistic view to ending homelessness. With our pressure, government moved from Everyone In, to the Next Steps Accommodation Programme and then the Protect Programme, working with local authorities. They are now spending over £700m to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in 2020-21. They have found additional funding to maintain the Everyone In programme.”