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26/05/2020

'Unprecedented' plans to house rough sleepers outlined

Words: Laura Edgar
Affordable housing / Shutterstock_519502300

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has set out plans to provide long-term homes for those sleeping rough in England who have been taken off the streets during the coronvirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The plans will be backed by £433 million of government funding, with £160 million going towards delivering 3,300 homes over the next 12 months. 

Charities, local government and other patterns have helped around 90 per cent of known rough sleepers into temporary accommodation since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The fund, the government explained, accelerates plans for £381 million announced in the Budget in March, and increases overall funding. In total, 6,000 long-term homes will be provided for those currently in emergency housing, with the wider aim of providing support on mental health, substance abuse, training and work to help rough sleepers stay off the streets for good.

The plans are being put together by the recently announced Rough Sleeping Covid 19 Response Taskforce, which is being led by Dame Louise Casey.

As part of this, Homes England, in partnership with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), has pledged to work with  housing associations and local authorities to help fast-track thousands of longer-term accommodation units for rough sleepers who need it now.

Jenrick said:  ”This government wants to end rough sleeping for good, and we now have a real opportunity to deliver on this moral mission. I’m backing this effort with £433 million to fast-track the longer-term and safe accommodation needed to ensure as few rough sleepers as possible return to the streets. This is an unprecedented commitment – the most ambitious of its kind and the single biggest injection of specialist accommodation since the rough sleepers initiative began.” 

Casey added:  “The goal is ambitious. Together, we want to do everything possible to ensure that vulnerable people who were sleeping rough and have come inside during this pandemic – some for the first time in a very long time – do not go back to the streets.    

“We know this safe harbour is just the start. We have here an extraordinary opportunity to end rough sleeping for good.”

The government said it will work in partnership with councils, local leaders and the property sector to ensure the housing is delivered “as quickly as possible and in the most cost-effective way”. 


Reaction:

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "It’s encouraging that the government is taking homelessness seriously, and any accommodation to support rough sleepers is welcome.

"But this pandemic has highlighted the extent of our housing emergency, from people sleeping on the streets, to families living in grim temporary accommodation, to struggling renters facing mounting debt and rent arrears having lost their jobs due to coronavirus.

"If government truly wants to keep people off the streets during this pandemic, it must give judges the power to ensure that no renter is made homeless when the eviction freeze ends in June. And ultimately, we won't solve homelessness without building the new generation of genuinely affordable social homes that this country desperately needs."

David Renard, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “Bringing forward the funding announced in the Budget for rough sleeping accommodation and the additional resources for specialist support will help councils to protect their most vulnerable residents as we look beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

“Councils want to take this opportunity to change the lives of our most vulnerable residents and stand ready to work with government on a national plan to move people into safe, long-term housing with access to wider support they might need for substance dependency and help with benefits, skills and getting work. 

“Following the initial surge in demand for accommodation, councils are also now experiencing an urgent need for more accommodation as people, including young people, continue to face homelessness and rough sleeping.

“While the funding for councils to support rough sleepers is positive, we still need clarity from government on what additional practical support will be available to councils to help them move people out of hotels and temporary accommodation and into housing."


Image credit | Shutterstock

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