Supporting local areas during the pandemic

March - October 2020


People experiencing homelessness, particularly those who are rough sleeping, are especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shared spaces and facilities of homelessness accommodation, such as hostels and night shelters, meant that people experiencing homelessness were often unable to follow the guidelines recommended for the general population, so self-isolate and maintain social distance. It was therefore vital that people who are homeless and living on the streets, or in shared facilities, were an immediate priority for alternative housing and support provision. 

The onset of the pandemic and subsequent “Everybody In” directive to local authorities required swift, coordinated responses from local service systems to protect people experiencing homelessness. This was an unprecedented time with many organisations producing resources and guidance quickly with everyone “learning as they went along”. Official guidance was often delayed, which meant exchanging practice and learning from others was all the more important during the emergency response and the subsequent transition away from emergency arrangements.


Our immediate response was to develop the Crisis Open-Access COVID-19 Toolkit - a Google Doc we shared and updated daily as new guidelines, resources and learning emerged across the country. It was developed to support local authority homelessness services with their emergency response to COVID-19. It contained principles and ideas about what local authorities should and could be doing, and a communal space for knowledge share and collaboration around emerging challenges and good practice.

Key areas covered were:

  • Useful resources
  • What should local authorities be doing? - covering centralised and coordinated planning, assessing local need and resources, service delivery changes, operational response plans and protocols, ensuring everyone has an offer of safe accommodation, temporary policy changes, preventing homelessness; and guidance for commissioners
  • Self-assessment tool - a practical tool developed with Groundswell and Pathway to help local areas “sense-check” their response for people experiencing homelessness, identifying strengths and elements to work on
  • Triage assessment questionnaire

As the emergency phase subsided, we supported local areas with their next steps and transition planning. We created a dedicated COVID-19 Transition Planning Toolkit page with a range of practical resources (18) and guidance for local areas transitioning from emergency COVID-19 arrangements. We updated this regularly and attended a number of practice exchange events with local authorities to share our learning and practical tools, including developing further resources on preventing homelessness when the temporary easements during the pandemic were lifted (eviction ban, LHA uplift etc.).


The use of the Google Doc at the start of the pandemic enabled us to provide practical insights to local areas which were updated regularly and reflected the fast pace of those early months. We were able to translate the proliferation of guidance into something simple and easy for local areas to use. 

Our COVID-19 Transition Planning Toolkit page went live at the end of May 2020 and received 1,182 unique users with 480 downloads of the resources signposted there. We are continuing to support local areas with the medium/ longer term impacts of the pandemic with our Consultancy Service.

Further Reading/ Resources

How are local authority homelessness services responding to COVID-19? (blog)

Introducing our COVID-19 transition planning toolkit (blog)

Preventing homelessness during the next phase of the pandemic (blog)

The impact of COVID-19 on people facing homelessness across GB (research)

To find out more about how we can support your local area or organisation, please get in touch.

For media enquiries:

E: media@crisis.org.uk
T: 020 7426 3880

For general enquiries:

E: enquiries@crisis.org.uk
T: 0300 636 1967