Written by: Sean Morrissey
The news of late is pretty grim. You wake up every morning to the TV over tea and toast to news that’s solely focused on coronavirus. You comb your hair, you brush your teeth, you make a plan for yet another day in isolation - but it’s okay. You call a friend, walk the dog, and otherwise abide by all social distancing guidelines, after all your home is the safest place to be.
However, not everyone is so fortunate to wake up in the warm bed of a safe home. An example of a typical story is someone like Davy - who didn’t always sleep rough but he does now. In fact, not so many months ago, Davy woke up every morning in his modest one-bedroom, fit for Davy and his partner to afford on a retail wage. Things were tight but they made it work until they couldn’t and as the relationship dissolved so too did Davy’s home security. He would spend the next several weeks hopping around local hostels, commuting to and from work until the cost of his stay outpaced the money coming in. Overwhelmed, he took leave from work and has been living rough through most of 2020; just one of the more than 4,200 people sleeping on the streets of London every night.
The challenges besetting rough sleepers, be it the need for personal safety or disease prevention, are well understood and have been further exacerbated by the outbreak of coronavirus across the UK. Recent research published through WPI economics finds that while rough sleeping throughout London alone has increased by more than 150% since 2010, related funding for homelessness aid has been cut by £1 billion annually (read the WPI 'Home for Good' briefing below).
Written by: Sean Morrissey
“I just never thought I’d see something like that here”, he says, “shelves are just naked, you know? Just gone, like they can’t keep up with demand.” He stops. “Never seen anything like it before in my life.” Mark, Food Bank volunteer
A barman by trade, Mark spends a good deal of his free time walking in nearby Wandle Park and working as a warehouse volunteer for his local Croydon food bank. He sees first-hand the impact of coronavirus on vulnerable people.
These wide-scale panic purchases, while disturbing, do have a way of settling back into the familiar, and often sooner than later. As the UK settles back into a relatively familiar routine, we are starting to see the ongoing effects of food shortages and panic buying across the UK food bank network. Food banks across the UK have been forced to reconcile their diminishing stock, leaving many to pay for the difference. For example, the North Paddington food bank, whose donation rate is down 25% in the wake of coronavirus, reported spending an additional £200 each week to cover the needs of vulnerable local families.