Rough sleepers, or those at risk of rough sleeping will be supported by £3.2 million of initial emergency funding if they need to self-isolate to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the government has announced today (Tuesday).
The funding will be available to all local authorities in England and will reimburse them for the cost of providing accommodation and services to those sleeping on the streets to help them successfully self-isolate.
It is in addition to the £492 million committed in 2020 to 2021 to support the government’s ambition to end rough sleeping in this Parliament, a £124 million increase in funding from the previous year.
In total, today’s announcement forms part of £643 million in funding to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over the next four years.
The governnment says today’s announcement will help to “ensure swift support is offered to people who are unable to self-isolate, such as those staying in night shelters or assessment hubs, as well as people who are currently sleeping rough.”
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “Public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society from coronavirus is this government’s top priority.
“We are working closely with councils and charities to ensure they have the support they need throughout this period.
“The initial funding that I’ve announced today will ensure councils are able to put emergency measures in place to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society to successfully self-isolate.
“I would urge anyone who is concerned about someone sleeping rough to use the government’s StreetLink app to alert local support services who can reach out to those in need at this difficult time.”
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England added: “People sleeping rough are often in poor health and are particularly vulnerable.
“That’s why this funding is so important, ensuring that rough sleepers who get symptoms have somewhere safe and protective to stay, and helping to prevent the spread of the infection.”
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, told Welfare Weekly: “It is an important step that the Government has acknowledged the need to provide accommodation for people sleeping rough, and those in night shelters, to self-isolate.
“However, leaving each local council to decide how they respond is a piecemeal and insufficient approach.
“What we really need is a coordinated plan from national Government to ensure people experiencing homelessness have immediate access to appropriate housing during this outbreak.
“We also need to see a cross-Government effort to prevent soaring levels of homelessness in the wake of COVID-19 – this should include a ban on evictions and additional financial support through the Universal Credit system.
“Last month, the Government appointed Dame Louise Casey as their rough sleeping tsar, starting after Easter – we urge them to bring this appointment forward so that she can lead the robust response needed.”
Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “We understand how critical it is for people to be able to self-isolate, and how incredibly difficult this would be for anyone sleeping rough to do.
“So this emergency funding for councils to make extra accommodation available is extremely helpful and welcome.
“It is the right thing to do when people sleeping rough already face very serious health risks and trauma.
“It is much harder to keep healthy if you are living on the street or relying on night buses and derelict buildings for refuge, which is why any efforts to ensure people’s lives are not put at extra risk should be prioritised.
“This is why we are also urging the government to follow suit with additional funding and support for councils to help homeless families living in shared temporary accommodation.
“At present it is very hard for those families, if not impossible, for them to follow isolation guidance because they are sharing kitchens and bathrooms with strangers and often living in a single room.”