LockdownLIVEs: Co-Production and creative advocacy for people living in emergency or temporary accommodation during Covid-19
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK, the first priority for the Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network (GMHAN) and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA)’s homelessness team was enacting the government’s “Everybody In” initiative. Within a few weeks, several hundred people were moved into hotel accommodation across GM to self-isolate safely. At the same time, work was underway to provide all these people with nutritious meals, health care and other essential services – at a time when many front line organisations were closing down due to the pandemic. It was a mammoth exercise, undertaken with strong support from the voluntary sector.
While this crisis work was underway, other human needs were less well catered for. A sense of community for residents in the hotels, and the need for people to creatively communicate about their circumstances also seemed pressing, but were absent from the vast majority of the provision. In mid-April, the LockdownLIVEs project, in collaboration with the GMHAN and Street Support Network, was born as a response.
LockdownLIVEs is a docu-series co-created by GM residents in emergency and temporary accommodation during the pandemic. The project aims were to creatively connect people who were self-isolating in emergency accommodation; and to help the broader public understand how the crisis was affecting those who don’t have their own homes. All GM residents experiencing homelessness were invited to submit videos of up to a minute, poems, drawings, or photos about what life is like right now. The submissions were edited into twice-weekly, themed episodes that aired on social media (@StreetSupportUK and @LockdownLIVES) on Tuesdays and Fridays at 3pm. LockdownLIVEs also hoped to offer an opportunity for viewing and discussion online, to help build community over the weeks and months that the lockdown continued.
Each new episode highlighted issues on different themes: everything from “what can you see from your window?” to “what isn’t working during this crisis response in GM?” Participants spoke of the challenges of communicating with GPs and support workers over the phone, and the resulting feelings of isolation and anxiety; the experience of food insecurity, and not having choice about your own diet; the frustration when those around aren’t observing social distancing; and the added anxiety when the government is unclear about their response. There have also been examples of collaboration, beauty and hope: residents in hotels bringing music back to the lockdown; working together (with masks and gloves) to build planters for flowers; and sharing humorous poems about what to watch (or not watch) on TV.
Project coordinators also heard regularly from staff at front-line organisations that watching these videos at the end of a workday was both emotional and encouraging; overall, the project was received with enthusiasm from staff and residents. Some residents didn’t have access to devices or data to send content, so staff helped to coordinate the submissions.
The LockdownLIVEs team also worked with other groups conducting research around homelessness during lockdown, meaning that our co-produced reporting and artistic expression could support more formal evaluation efforts. The final video that you see here ties the various themes together, and is envisaged as an advocacy tool.
In June, the GM Homelessness Action Network’s members – including people with lived experience of homelessness, frontline workers, researchers and decision makers – inputted into a document expressing what they feel to happen to end homelessness after Covid.
Called “Building Back Better”, the document covers what needs to happen short, medium and long term, including national policy asks and actions at Local and Combined Authority levels. We are now asking everyone with a stake in making this happen to share it, and to discuss the content in their own fields and forums.
GMHAN’s next full Network event is taking place on September 9th where progress will be reviewed. All GM residents are warmly welcomed to input into the review.
The Building Back Better document can be viewed here:
We would strongly recommend that people interested in advocating for housing rights and seeking to prevent homelessness connect with another GM partner on Necessity – the Greater Manchester Law Centre. The following information is from GMLC:
Despite consistent calls from both homelessness charities and the cross-party Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee to change the law the Government has indicated that housing possession proceedings will recommence when the current stay finishes on August 23rdwithout any additional protection for tenants.
There are 8 million renters in the UK. Over 3 million have already suffered a drop in income as a result of Covid-19 and nearly 2 million are worried about paying their rent – and that’s before the furlough scheme winds down.
Nearly 230,000 private renters, equivalent to the population of Oldham, are at risk when the court stay on eviction ends on 23 August. We don’t know how many social tenants are also at risk.
Under current housing law, private and housing association landlords can apply to the courts to evict tenants on the grounds of rent arrears that forbid the court from considering the tenant’s circumstances or whether the eviction is fair.
Greater Manchester Law Centre and others have lobbied government, warned them of the eviction/homelessness crisis that is coming and have drafted “oven ready” changes to the law that would protect tenants from losing their homes as a result of CV-19. These can be found here. By not implementing changes to the law to support renters, the government have chosen to let it happen.
Failing to protect renters hits the same people this government have failed to protect from this virus. BAME people are more likely to live in insecure tenancies, twice as likely to be unemployed and 3 times more likely to experience homelessness than white households. Disability/ill health are the strongest predictors of poverty. The virus does not discriminate, government does.
The Government has a clear choice – to allow Parliament to go on holiday on 22 July, content to leave renters to their fate when the stay ends on 23 August 2020 or introduce urgent legislation this week to ensure that renters are treated justly.
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If you are worried about paying your rent and are concerned about your tenancy, there are organisations there to help:
Nationally – Shelter on 0800 800 4444
For Greater Manchester, call Greater Manchester Law Centre on 0161 769 2244
If you rent your property, join a union or movement, and organise in your community through tenants support groups: