COVID-19: How the pandemic has led to an increase in the number of ‘homeless workers’

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COVID-19: How the pandemic has led to an increase in the number of ‘homeless workers’


Florian Hasalla wakes up at 6:45 am – the first in a line of sleeping bags next to a building near the Savoy Hotel in London.

He packs the cardboard box he uses as a mattress – hides his sleeping bag in a wheelie bin and heads to Charing Cross station to use the bathroom to make himself respectable for work.

At 8 am, he is at a construction site next to Buckingham Palace where he drags rubble on scaffolding; a homeless man helping renovate some of London’s most expensive properties.

While the number of rough sleepers is expected to increase in the wake of the pandemic, charities say Florian is part of a sub-sector of our economy that is expected to grow – the working homeless people – the economy of cardboard.

“I don’t wish that on anyone,” said Florian. ” It’s hard. Because you are fighting. You’re fighting with the wind, and early in the morning it’s so cold that this sleeping bag can’t save you.

“And if it rains, it can rain anytime. People drunk at night, bad guys might come and kick you. “

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Florian Hasalla ended up homeless during confinement

No one on Florian’s site knows his situation.

He said: “The lockdown happened and then it was all canceled and from there I ended up homeless because I wasn’t getting enough money.

“I messed up the rent. And to be very honest I started drinking a little bit, which I’m not really a drinker but because I stayed home a lot, the depression started and everything and I lost the place and I came to london for a fresh start and even with the job now i can’t make a fresh start. “

The latest figures show that around 75,000, or a quarter of households in England that are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, also manage to work.

Sleepers in the street, people in tents or in temporary accommodation try to cling to normality by clinging to their work.

But charities fear that number will rise as people go through a rough patch after the pandemic and the leave scheme ends.

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Florian works on a construction site but lives in the street

The odd job economy means that if there is work available, it is not a secure job, and sometimes does not pay enough to cover the rent.

At a food bank on the Strand in central London we met bar workers, builders and even a former civil servant who had become homeless but managed to keep his job at a bank while sleeping on the streets. .

Steven Stuart, co-founder of Friends of Essex and London Homeless who run the food bank, says the demographics that use it are changing.

He said: “I don’t think this is the archetypal homeless person we once knew. These are people who are going through difficult times and who may not be used to being in this position.

“We’re talking about ordinary, hard-working people these days falling off the ladder and finding nowhere to live.

“We see people who have jobs, people still trying to keep that job and they won’t tell their employer I don’t doubt it because I imagine their employer might look down on that. “

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Nick Rose ended up living in a cemetery after he couldn’t afford rent

Alan Ellis is a food bank volunteer, but he was homeless three years ago and has spent four and a half months living on the streets.

He said, “You sleep holding on to your sneakers. I take my hat off to anyone who can work, get up at 6 in the morning, go to work and come to sleep here. But there are people who are able to do it.

“I was not one of them. These four and a half months have been some of the hardest of my life. It just destroys your soul, you know. “

Nick Rose works in the courier industry. He says the market has become oversaturated in recent years with too many workers and not enough shifts. After a while he didn’t earn enough to pay the rent, so he went out and bought his new house.

“I bought a ten pound tent from Decathlon and a ten pound sleeping bag and moved to the nearest cemetery,” he said.

He found there was no way to communicate his problems to the courier company he worked for.

He says, “A lot of times we don’t even deal with humans, we just deal with an app, and most of the time it’s just an algorithm on an app, which even divides up the work and decides who should do what. It is faceless. “

Nick Rose is a delivery guy who said life is now
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Nick Rose is a delivery boy who once said life is “dark” now

Nick now lives in a hostel but says he still knows people carrying their belongings on their backs with their deliveries.

He said: “I have friends who have been homeless for long periods. I found myself drinking more. You want to drink yourself to sleep because it’s such a hostile and threatening world, you know?

“It’s very dark and keeping morale up is almost impossible. “

Jon Sparkes, managing director of the charity Crisis for the Homeless, said: “The fact that tens of thousands of people across England cannot afford safe and secure housing despite working every possible hour, highlights just how bad our housing situation has become.

“We know the pandemic has caused untold damage to people’s lives and livelihoods, but low wages and high rents trapped people in poverty and homelessness long before the coronavirus shut down entire industries. . It just cannot continue.

“If we are truly to rebuild better, the government must tackle the root causes that lead people to homelessness – this means building the social housing we desperately need and ensuring that housing allowances continue to cover the bottom line. true cost of rents. “

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At the end of the working day Florian comes back exhausted from the site.

He reaches out behind a trash can to find his flattened boxes.

He places them on the ground then, from inside the trash can, retrieves his hidden sleeping bag.

Her phone is charged with being at work. He could look at the news before eating and going to sleep.

Two more months and he thinks he may have saved enough to get off the streets.

However, it wasn’t until he managed to get a second evening job that he just applied as a cleaner.

One day, maybe next year, he hopes to open a fruit stall. For now, he’s clinging to his dreams.

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