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Government asks councils to house all rough sleepers by the weekend to tackle coronavirus spread

Rough sleepers must be housed by the weekend, local councils have been told (PA)

2 min read

The Government has written to all local councils asking them to find homes for all rough sleepers by the weekend to protect them from the coronavirus outbreak.

Homelessness charity Crisis revealed the Government’s plans on Friday, publishing a letter sent to local authorities by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

It read: “As you know, this is a public health emergency. 

“We are all redoubling our efforts to do what we possibly can at this stage to ensure that everybody is inside and safe by this weekend, and we stand with you in this.

“These are unusual times so I’m asking for an unusual effort. 

“Many areas of the country have already been able to ’safe harbour’ their people which is incredible. What we need to do now though is work out how we can get ‘everyone in’.”

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey supported the move but said more funding was needed.

He said: "It is the right move to get people rapidly off the streets, but councils need support to do this. 

"The Government has pledged just £3.2 million for this work which is simply not enough when local homelessness services have been cut by £1 billion a year and lost 9,000 beds since 2010."

Full details of the scheme are yet to be released by the Government. 

It comes after the MHCLG announced an emergency £3.2m fund earlier this month to help rough sleepers self-isolate if they were suffering from or at risk of coronavirus.

The scheme meant councils would be reimbursed for the cost of providing accommodation and services to vulnerable rough sleepers.

But the Government is now asking councils to house all people sleeping rough, and those in hostels and night shelters.

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes also welcomed the news, but called on ministers not to force people back on the street when the crisis ends.

He said: “The Government’s insistence that everyone sleeping rough should be housed by the weekend is a landmark moment – and the right thing to do.

“Questions remain about how local councils will be supported to do this, and whether additional funding, or assistance securing hotel rooms, will be made available. 

“We also need to see a package of support so that, when the outbreak subsides, the outcome is not that people return to the streets.”

The MHCLG has been approached for comment.

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