31 March 2021

As someone who has struggled with homelessness long term, Kendrick was stuck in a vicious cycle.

He didn’t have a bank account, something which he really needed in order to get back on his feet – to receive benefits, pay for a mobile phone contract to contact potential employers and to get paid if he found a job. And if he got how own place, he’d need one to pay bills and rent.

But the 34-year-old, who is sofa surfing with friends, didn’t have the identification and proof of address need to open an account – a situation that keeps people trapped being homeless.

“You just can’t do just like basic stuff,” he said. “When you’re homeless it’s almost impossible to keep hold of your ID. When you’re hopping from place to place you can barely keep anything. Without a bank account I was trapped.”

Opportunities opened up

Traditionally, banks require photo identification such as a passport or drivers licence as well as proof of address, which could be a council tax or energy bill – documents which many people experiencing homelessness may not even have.

But thankfully, Kendrick’s luck changed when HSBC begun a scheme allowing people without a fixed home address to open bank accounts with HSBC UK.

Launched in December 2019 in 31 branches, the No Fixed Address service now operates in more than 100 branches across the country and there has so far been 700 accounts opened under it.

Homeless people can access a basic bank account without the need for photo ID or proof of address when accompanied by a caseworker and using the address of the charity supporting them.

Now Kendrick, from Edmonton, north London, has been able to start work as a labourer and he hopes having his own home is on the horizon. “I’m holding this bank card, this is going nowhere,” he said.

“Having a bank account has put me in a much better position than I was in a year ago. People can’t imagine something so simple can make a world of difference but it has.”

Rising homelessness 

The latest Government snapshot figures show 2,668 people were recorded as street homeless in England on a given night in the autumn of 2020. Although, this figure has fallen in the last year, it is still 52 per cent higher than in 2010 when data first started being collected.

The fall this year is said to be due to the Government’s Everyone In scheme, where councils were instructed to rapidly rehouse thousands of rough sleepers at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Rough Sleeping Initiative which launched in 2018.

However, when you factor in people recorded as homeless and living in temporary accommodation, the problem is significantly wider spread. According to Shelter, 253,000 people in England fall into this category during the pandemic, data published last December reveals.

With the economic chaos caused by Covid-19 likely “turbo-charging the crisis” according to the charity, this is the highest figure for 14 years, and there will be many more people who are sofa-surfing or not captured by official statistics.

Call for other banks to follow suit

Both Shelter and Crisis have worked closely with HSBC on the scheme.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The cruel impact of the Covid crisis has tipped thousands of people into homelessness and left many with no option but to sleep rough,” she said. “It’s hard enough battling the elements and surviving the daily dangers of the streets. If you are then cut off from receiving financial support or have no way to get your wages paid, it can be even harder to break free of the clutches of homelessness.

“HSBC’s determination to extend the No Fixed Address service to even more branches across the country, despite the challenges of the pandemic, is fantastic and so important. It means even more people can take a key step towards financial independence that will hopefully help them to re-build their lives.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said:  We know that without a bank account it can be difficult for people experiencing homelessness to access employment, secure housing and, for many of our clients, it means being stuck in a prolonged cycle of homelessness.

“Our services team has worked closely with HSBC branches to secure accounts for our clients, and the results are often life changing. We hope that the success of the accounts will encourage other banks will follow suit.”

To find out more about how people with no fixed address can set up a HSBC account click here.

Source: iNews