Two St Mungo’s clients were invited to speak to MPs at the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee last week (17 December). They spoke about their lived experience of homelessness during the pandemic, with our Chief Executive, Steve Douglas CBE, talking about the charity’s work during the year.
The meeting was hosted by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee in order to gather evidence from a number of homelessness organisations and individuals about their pandemic experiences. The information will be collated into a report to influence improvements to the current policies surrounding homelessness.
The session was split into two parts with the first half, focusing on the experiences of our two St Mungo’s clients and two people from NACCOM, a charity that works to prevent homelessness amongst people seeking asylum, refugees and other migrants.
Our speakers, Tracy and T provided moving and poignant testimony, highlighting the help they received from charities and local authorities whilst homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. They also spoke about mental health difficulties as a result of the pandemic including access to face to face mental health support, and support and advice about benefits, housing advice, healthcare and food banks pre and during the pandemic.
They also spoke about the success of Everyone In, the impact of restrictions on Christmas plans, their personal hopes for the future and challenges for women who experience destitution such as sexual exploitation and access to sanitary products. Those with complex migrant status talked about their experiences of not having recourse to public funds including barriers to work, accommodation and financial help. They concluded with their suggestions to improve homelessness in the current situation and in the future.
Tracy said: “I’m all about changing the way people view homelessness, so it was brilliant to be offered the chance to tell my story to MPs.
“When I first started speaking, I was so nervous but eventually I relaxed into it and started to really enjoy it. If I’m ever offered the chance to do it again, I’d definitely say yes.”
St Mungo’s Chief Executive Steve Douglas CBE was one of three organisational leaders invited to speak, alongside Fiona Colley, Director of Social Change at Homeless Link, and Henry St Clair Miller, Head of NRPF, Refugee and Migrant Services at Islington Council.
They were asked, and responded, about the success of Everyone In, how the situation is evolving given the circumstances of the pandemic and whether this is causing more people to become homeless, and uncertainty around the number of Covid safe and self-contained accommodation for people rough sleeping this winter.
Committee members also discussed the situation regarding people who are homeless with No Recourse to Public Funds and how councils can best support them going forward.
Steve Douglas said: “Every single one of our clients has a unique story to tell and it is incredibly important that we give a voice to people like Tracy, such as this opportunity to speak to influential MPs about her experiences both before and during the pandemic.
“Not only do opportunities like these give our clients a chance to be heard, but a chance to feel valued by those who can make a difference to the future for people who have experienced similarly distressing situations.
“We look forward to seeing the influences our clients will have on future Government policies and are both very proud and grateful to them for sharing their stories, especially whilst still going through a difficult time.
“At St Mungo’s, we will continue to work with our partners in the homelessness sector, Local Authorities and National Government to ensure all of our client’s stories are heard and in turn, keep working hard to end homelessness and rebuild lives.”
You can watch the full committee meeting here.