Coronavirus: Keir Starmer backs plea to use 'once in a generation' opportunity to end rough sleeping
The Labour group has demanded "urgent clarity" over the plans to protect rough sleepers
Keir Starmer has backed calls from regional leaders to use the "once in a generation" opportunity presented by coronavirus to end rough sleeping.
The Labour leader joined the Mayors of London, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and North Tyne in their plea for ministers to provide "urgent clarity" on the next steps for protecting the homeless during the pandemic.
More than 5,000 rough sleepers have been offered emergency accomodation as part of the Government's "Everyone in" programme, which aimed to get people off the streets in a bid to protect them from the virus.
But the Labour group warned many would end up "back on the streets" if councils were not provided with "certainty" over future funding for programmes to provide alternative accomodation.
In a joint statement, they said: "The Government has rightly committed to protecting vulnerable rough sleepers for the duration of the pandemic.
"However, the dedicated funding to house rough sleepers is set to run out and no clear plans or resources have been put in place by Government for what happens next.
They added: "When this crisis is over, we cannot return to business as usual. Rough sleepers, some of whom are receiving support for the first time, have been brought safely off the streets.
"We cannot let that progress go to waste. This is an unprecedented opportunity to 'build back better' and avoid a return to business as usual.
"If the Government is serious about its commitment to end rough sleeping, now is the time to act."
The group added that changes to Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit, as well as additional support for those with no recourse to public funds, would help move rough sleepers into permanent accomodation after the pandemic.
Responding to the letter, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "Councils should be proud of their efforts to get rough sleepers off the street, backed by an unprecedented continued package of government support.
"We have been clear councils must continue to provide safe accommodation for those that need it and provided £3.2million at the start of the pandemic so they could take immediate action and help rough sleepers off the street.
"Our new rough sleeping taskforce - spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey - will work with councils across the country to ensure as many rough sleepers as possible can move into long-term, safe accommodation."