Thousands of rough sleepers still not safely housed, charities say

Thousands of homeless people are still on the streets despite the Government’s aim to house all rough sleepers by the end of last month, charities have said.

Local authorities in England were urged to find accommodation for all rough sleepers by March 29, to protect them during the coronavirus pandemic.

But a coalition of charities, including Streets Kitchen, StreetVet, The Outside Project, Simon Community and the Museum of Homelessness, believe as many as 20% of homeless people could still be sleeping rough.

It is also believed one in 10 rough sleepers will or have been refused accommodation because they have pets.

The organisations have called for all homeless people to be housed, allowed to keep their pets while in accommodation and to be provided with adequate protective equipment and support.

John Glackin, of Streets Kitchen, said: “We understand around 20% of homeless people in England have yet to be housed – which equates to tens of thousands of people.

“However, we suspect the real figure is much higher from the amount of people we’re still feeding out on the streets.”

It comes as figures show more than 1,000 rough sleepers are currently self-isolating in hotels and other safe locations across London.

The Government and London mayor Sadiq Khan have committed more than £10 million to provide hotel accommodation and support to homeless people in the capital during the pandemic.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “This Government is committed to ensuring that those who are sleeping rough on our capital’s streets are protected from this pandemic.

“Today’s news is the result of a real collaborative effort between the Government, the mayor of London, local authorities, health providers and charities to provide help to those who are most in need during this national emergency.”

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, the membership charity for frontline homelessness services, said: “Services and their partners in some parts of the country are still very much in the midst of the incredibly challenging process of housing people sleeping rough.

“Services are having to tread new territory and are rapidly grappling with the reality of delivering this task.

“The sector will continue to face tough decisions and be stretched in new ways over the coming weeks.

“Already, questions are being asked about how services can best help clients adjust to their new environment, cope with heightened anxiety, disruption to their support networks, and vital access to treatment.

“Staff are worried about their role in ‘compliance’ with Government guidelines, how to ‘keep people in’ when people’s patterns of everyday life are based on being out on the street.”