Council leaders have told Sky News they will need “rock solid” financial support from the government if they’re to deal with the social challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Charities have said they are already starting to see a rise in homelessness among some of the most vulnerable in society.
In a churchyard, tucked away from the view of surrounding houses, Ashley Khan and Katie Bland are packing up their tent and rucksacks.
It’s 8am and although the sun is shining it feels cold.
Ms Bland, 26, said: “This is all I’ve got, these clothes what I’m wearing, a few pairs of socks, underwear, wash bits, headphones.
“Everything is a bit damp.”
The couple have been living in a tent in Bolton, Greater Manchester, for the past few weeks, mainly camping in woods well away from the city centre.
But last night it was already late by the time they were looking to bed down, so they found a churchyard in a more residential area.
Mr Khan, 37, said: “The closer to town you get, the more dangerous it gets.
“There are more drunks about. We’re not junkies, we’re not drunks. So we try and stay away.”
Ms Bland added: “But it’s cold, especially at 4am, really cold.”
Mr Khan is a self-employed painter and decorator. Since lockdown, he’s been unable to find much work.
When the couple couldn’t pay their weekly rent, their landlord evicted them.
Although the government put laws in place to prevent eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Khan and Ms Bland were living in shared accommodation, without a tenancy agreement and paying their rent in cash.
Although they have friends in the area, Mr Khan said “you don’t like to ask, ask, ask all the time, so we decided to camp”.
He continued: “It’s hard when you’ve been living a normal life, with a flat and designer clothes, to find yourself in this position – that’s a bit bad for me to get my head around.
“And all that’s hard worked for, earned and now suddenly all our stuff is in storage.
“And this is all that’s left.”
The couple have both been homeless before, but were getting back on their feet.
But trying to rebuild, again, during this lockdown, feels incredibly challenging.
And it’s taken its toll on them, especially Ms Bland, who lives with a mental health condition.
She said: “I’m only young.
“I like to look good, have nice things. I know they are only material things but you know, just getting my hair done, things like that is how I make myself feel good.”
Mr Khan said: “Yeah, when you’ve not had a warm wash for a while, it’s like you can feel your skin. You don’t feel clean. It’s not nice.”
Since our interview, Bolton Council have found the couple emergency accommodation.
But the Local Government Association says to help people like them, both now and in the future, councils will need “rock solid” support from central government.
It told Sky News: “Councils are leading local efforts to support people at risk of homelessness during the outbreak.
“To get through this crisis, councils need the government’s commitment that they will get all the resources they need to cope with… this monumental challenge.”
And there are fears that this challenge will get harder.
Billa Ahmed runs Homeless Aid UK, an organisation that helps feed vulnerable and homeless people in Bolton and surrounding areas.
He said the problem is not going to end once the lockdown is over – if anything, it’ll get worse.
Mr Ahmed said: “There is so much uncertainty.
“In four, five months when everything’s lifted and things open up – that’s actually when businesses are going to go under and lay people off.
“And that’s when we’re going to see people really start to lose their homes, and end up on the streets.
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