Rough sleepers to stay in hotels amid lockdown funding row
Leaked report suggests government plans to 'draw a line under' accommodation policy
15 May, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby
THE Town Hall has said rough sleepers put up in hotels during the coronavirus crisis will not be moved out for the time being, despite a leaked report in the north of England suggesting the government will no longer be funding the emergency programme.
The report from the Greater Manchester combined authority, leaked to the Manchester Evening News, said the Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government has “drawn a line” under the ‘Everyone In’ programme, which aimed to provide emergency accommodation to the homeless.
The document suggests that while councils can continue to accommodate people as they have done during the crisis, the government is no longer directing them to do so, nor will they receive funding to pay for it.
In Camden, 160 homeless people with nowhere to self-isolate have been placed in temporary accommodation after the government directed authorities to protect them from the virus earlier in the outbreak.
The council said on Wednesday it had committed £900,000 to pay for emergency housing and food deliveries for the homeless over the next three months and Camden officials have said there are currently no plans to end the support.
The government has strongly denied “reneging on the commitment set out at the start of this national emergency”, adding in a statement today (Friday): “We have been clear councils must continue to provide safe accommodation for those that need it, and any suggestion that funding is being withdrawn or people asked to leave hotels is unfounded.”
But the report has created more uncertainty about whether the government or local authorities will have to pay for the rising accommodation bill once initial funding runs out.
It has also heightened fears that rough sleepers will be forced to move out of the hotels before long-term accommodation can be found, amid a nationwide shortage of social housing.
Reacting to Manchester Evening News’ report, Labour leader and St Pancras and Holborn MP Sir Keir Starmer said: “The coronavirus crisis is far from over. It’s simply wrong to send homeless people back onto the streets.
“Right now they need emergency support. But after this crisis we can’t forget that we all but ended rough sleeping overnight. We can end it for good.”
Council leader Georgia Gould has been vocal about her desire to accommodate all rough sleepers beyond the pandemic and Town Hall’s deputy chief executive Martin Pratt told a committee this week they had no intention of ceasing the service.
Safer Communities chief Councillor Nadia Shah said: “We have an exceptional opportunity to provide people with a route out of homelessness for good” but said, “it is clear that we will need far greater support from the government in order to seize this opportunity”.
Jon Glackin, founder of grassroots project Streets Kitchen has already warned of an impending “tsunami” of people sleeping on the streets in the months ahead, many of which will have been made homeless during the crisis. He has called for empty properties to be opened up and used as shelters.
Government figures show over 90 percent of rough sleepers known to councils have been offered accommodation, however charities say many are unaccounted for in the statistics and remain on the streets.
A new government taskforce spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey has been set up to look at the next phase of the government’s support for rough sleepers during the pandemic.
A MHCLG spokesperson said: “While councils continue to provide accommodation to those that need it, it is only responsible that we work with partners to ensure rough sleepers can move into long-term, safe accommodation once the immediate crisis is over.”