An end to homelessness can be Britain’s positive legacy of the pandemic
The government's Everyone In initiative at the start of the pandemic housed nearly 30,000 homeless people | PA Images
We’re building on the success of our Covid rescue plans with new measures to support people into housing
When I became the minister for rough sleeping in September, I knew I was taking on not just one of the biggest priorities of this government, but for the entire country.
This has been a hugely challenging year for us all; even more so for some of our most vulnerable people. Those sleeping rough not only faced the dangers posed by the spread of the virus, but also not even having the comfort of a roof over their heads.
Which is why, right from the beginning of this pandemic, we knew our duty was to protect these people.
Working alongside councils and the many voluntary groups and charities doing stellar work in this area, I can say I’m immensely proud of the way we have risen to this challenge. My thanks to everyone who has gone the extra mile.
Our ‘Everyone In’ campaign helped more than 90% of those sleeping rough at the start of the pandemic into safe accommodation.
In total we’ve now housed 29,000 vulnerable people – supporting over 10,000 into emergency accommodation and 19,000 into settled accommodation or with move-on support. Having seen first-hand the tremendous work that St Mungo’s in Clapham is doing and from listening and speaking to those involved in the Youth Homeless Parliament, I’m absolutely aware of the importance of this vital work.
With winter and the cold weather now sweeping in, we’re building on these efforts, taking our investment in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping to over £700m this year alone, to meet our ultimate goal – ending rough sleeping for good.
Our manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping within this Parliament is in our sights
Last month, we launched a new ‘Protect Programme’ and have asked all local areas to update their plans about how they are protecting people this winter.
The scheme will provide a further £15m for councils requiring extra support during the new national restrictions and throughout winter to provide accommodation for rough sleepers.
That’s on top of our £10m Cold Weather Fund for councils and an additional £2m for faith and community groups to support rough sleepers into self-contained and Covid-secure accommodation.
We’ve also introduced unprecedented support to protect renters throughout the pandemic – this includes strengthening the welfare safety net with over £9bn to the welfare system and an extra £1bn to increase the Local Housing Allowance rates.
Our relentless focus is, therefore, on providing long-term solutions and accommodation that give rough sleepers security and the opportunity to help them rebuild their lives as we, as a country, also build back better from the pandemic.
That’s why we have approved grants to deliver over 3,000 new long-term homes across England for those sleeping on the streets – 38 schemes in London alone – aiming to provide more than 900 new homes.
Once allocated a new home, supported by specialist staff, and with access to the help they need such as support for mental health or substance misuse needs, these people will have an opportunity to turn their lives around, access training and work, and create a new national asset.
My hope is that among all the ongoing challenges we face, this will be one of the very positive, enduring legacies from the pandemic – thousands of lives protected; many more now looking forward to a brighter future; our manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping within this Parliament in our sights.
This is a personal priority for the Prime Minister and we have shown that with a plan and the will to come together, we can and will succeed.
Kelly Tolhurst is Conservative MP for Rochester and Strood, and minister for rough sleeping