In Brief

Coronavirus: what has it cost to house the homeless during the pandemic?

Charities call for urgent government action to prevent rough sleepers being forced back onto streets

Thousands of homeless people who have been put up in hotels during the coronavirus pandemic will be turned out onto the streets within weeks unless the government takes urgent action, charities are warning.

Around 100 homelessness organisations have signed an open letter to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to request a meeting “to discuss how we can work together to develop better solutions” for rehousing the at-risk residents.

The plea comes as two of the hotels used to house homeless people over the past three months “have ceased doing so in preparation for returning to regular business”, The Guardian reports.   

The letter, coordinated by campaign group Citizens UK, says that unless officials waive a restriction on foreign nationals with a limited immigration status known as “no recourse to public funds”, about half those currently housed could end up back on the streets. 

“We are dismayed that extended housing support will only be available to those who qualify for welfare benefits,” say the charities, which describe the situation as “a national catastrophe in the making”.

Days before Britain entered lockdown, the government pledged to give councils across England a total of £3.2m as part of an emergency scheme called “Everyone In”, which was aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, the BBC reports.

Since then, more than 14,500 people who were on the streets or at risk of sleeping rough have been given emergency accommodation.

Housing Secretary Jenrick said in March that “public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society” was the government’s “top priority”. 

But in mid-May, a leaked report from Greater Manchester’s combined authority claimed that the government had “drawn a line” under the Everyone In scheme and would no longer stump up the money to house rough sleepers.

However, the claims were described as “misleading” by a Ministry of Housing spokesperson, who said that since March, the government had given local councils £3.2bn to tackle the “immediate pressures they are facing, including housing rough sleepers”. 

According to the government’s website, the Covid-19 package was pledged as an addition to the £492m already promised to fight homelessness in 2020 to 2021. This sum makes up part of a total £643m put aside to tackle rough sleeping during this parliament. 

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