Government looks to house all rough sleepers

Last week the government asked local authorities in England to house all people sleeping rough by the weekend, according to homeless charity Crisis.

In a letter sent to homelessness managers and rough sleeping coordinators in every local authority, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, is quoted as saying: “As you know, this is a public health emergency.

“We are all redoubling our efforts to do what we possibly can at this stage to ensure that everybody is inside and safe by this weekend, and we stand with you in this.

“These are unusual times so I’m asking for an unusual effort. Many areas of the country have already been able to ’safe harbour’ their people which is incredible. What we need to do now though is work out how we can get ‘everyone in’.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The government’s insistence that everyone sleeping rough should be housed by the weekend is a landmark moment – and the right thing to do.

“Questions remain about how local councils will be supported to do this, and whether additional funding, or assistance securing hotel rooms, will be made available. We also need to see a package of support so that, when the outbreak subsides, the outcome is not that people return to the streets.

“The government has committed to ending rough sleeping by 2025 – this proves it can be done in 2020 if we make it the priority it deserves to be.”

In order to house rough sleepers Crisis recommended launching a national appeal for accommodation, including empty apartment blocks and hotels.

Dedicated funding should go to local authorities to pay for the up-front costs of accommodating everyone on streets and in shelters, as well as to support people once they are in hotels.

Housing benefit restrictions should be lifted, while hostile environment policies should be suspended.