Government announces more money to keep rough sleepers off streets
The Government has committed more money to stop thousands of homeless people returning to the streets after charities warned they could be evicted from hotels without further funds.
Rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless will be helped to secure their own tenancies through £105 million, £85 million of which is new funding, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said.
The Treasury money will also help them put down deposits for accommodation and secure thousands of rooms already available, such as student accommodation, while they wait for a permanent home.
Currently almost 15,000 people are in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, to keep them safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
Approximately 5,000–7,000 of these had been sleeping rough, and 2,000 were in communal night shelters.
The charity Crisis previously warned thousands could return to the streets at the end of June, with contracts between local authorities in England and hotels expected to terminate due to current Government money running out.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “In recent months, I have seen a huge effort across the country to keep almost 15,000 vulnerable people off the streets. This has been vital to ensure their safety during the peak of the pandemic and has changed the lives of thousands for the better.
“The additional funding announced today will allow us to continue to support these individuals – giving them access to the accommodation and support they need now while we continue with plans to deliver thousands of long-term homes in the coming months.”
Chairwoman of the Covid-19 rough sleeping task force, Dame Louise Casey, thanked hotels and other providers for providing “safe haven” for some of society’s most vulnerable members.
She added: “We now have an extraordinary opportunity to help keep them in and turn their lives around if we get the next steps right.
“I am clear that there can now be no going back to the streets as people begin to move on from the emergency accommodation that has been put in place.”
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee previously warned that the “golden opportunity” to solve rough sleeping would be lost without at least £100 million a year.
The Government allocated £3.2 million in March specifically to help homeless people self-isolate during the Covid-19 outbreak.
It has also promised £433 million to create 6,000 supported housing units – 3,300 of which will be made available in the next 12 months.
A larger pot of emergency funding – £3.2 billion – has been made available to help local authorities respond to the pandemic, but they are facing competing claims on their resources.
It is not clear whether homeless people whose immigration status is not finalised, and have no recourse to public funds (NRPF), can be helped by the new money.
London Councils, which represents local authorities in the capital, previously said that at least 900 of the almost 5,000 rough sleepers in London’s emergency accommodation are subject to NRPF restrictions.
Anecdotal evidence heard by Crisis suggests up to 60% of people in some hotels could be in this category.
Jon Sparkes, Crisis chief executive, said: “This funding is a real step forward towards tackling homelessness across England, but money alone will not provide a guarantee of safe and secure accommodation during and after this public health crisis.
“We need emergency legal measures to ensure that every local council can provide housing support to everyone experiencing homelessness, regardless of their immigration status.
“Across the country, we know that support is patchy and inconsistent, with councils often uncertain who they should be helping, and in need of clarity and direction from Government.
“In addition to this very welcome extra funding we need to see additional legislation that gives everyone at risk somewhere safe to stay.”
A further £16 million to address substance misuse, which has previously been announced, has been brought forward due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Government said.
Councillor David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, said: “Many rough sleepers are likely to have complex support needs, and so the money to tackle substance misuse will enable drug and alcohol treatment providers to continue supporting people as we look to move them into long-term housing.”