The UK government has pledged an additional £105 million in funding to support councils in keeping rough sleepers off the streets during the Coronavirus pandemic, ministers announced today (Wednesday).
The funding will be used to support rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness into tenancies of their own, including through help with deposits for accommodation, and securing thousands of alternative rooms already available and ready for use, such as student accommodation.
Today’s announcement takes the total amount provided this year by government to support rough sleepers and those on the brink of becoming homeless to over half a billion pounds.
It is in addition to plans to create 6,000 long-term ‘safe homes’ to ensure that society’s most vulnerable people are kept off the streets during the pandemic and after the crisis has abated.
A further £16 million is also being provided so that vulnerable people currently in emergency accommodation can access they specialist help they need for substance misuse issues, in order to rebuild their lives and move towards work and education.
Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “In recent months, I have seen a huge effort across the country to keep almost 15,000 vulnerable people off the streets. This has been vital to ensure their safety during the peak of the pandemic and has changed the lives of thousands for the better.
“The additional funding announced today will allow us to continue to support these individuals – giving them access to the accommodation and support they need now while we continue with plans to deliver thousands of long-term homes in the coming months.
“Together, this takes the funding provided by government for vulnerable rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless to over half a billion this year – an unprecedented commitment as we move towards ending rough sleeping for good.”
Chair of the COVID-19 Rough Sleeping Taskforce, Dame Louise Casey thanked the “extraordinary effort from councils, charities and many others to provide a safe haven for almost 15,000 homeless people who were either on the streets or at risk of rough sleeping during this COVID-19 pandemic”.
He added: “I want to thank again the hotels and other providers who have opened their doors to some of the most vulnerable people in society at this most difficult time
“We now have an extraordinary opportunity to help keep them in and turn their lives around if we get the next steps right. I am clear that there can now be no going back to the streets as people begin to move on from the emergency accommodation that has been put in place.”
Responding to the announcement Denise Hatton, Chief Executive, YMCA England & Wales said: “YMCA wholeheartedly support today’s announcement from the Government and it gives us confidence that they are committed to ending rough sleeping.
“YMCA has frequently highlighted that one element which must be addressed when combatting homeless is securing rental deposits and move-on accommodation.
“This is too often an insurmountable barrier for those wishing to move beyond homelessness, and the focus of this funding approach is welcomed. We look forward to working with and supporting the Government’s ambition and roll out.
“Through all of the chaos and sadness that COVID-19 has caused, it has also provided us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to stamp out rough sleeping. We cannot let this slip by and the Government has rightly prioritised it.”
Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, said: “This is a critical intervention. Hotels and other emergency accommodation sourced during lockdown were mostly due to close at the end of June, with a real risk of people returning to the streets as councils came under extreme time and resource pressure to find alternative housing.
“If executed swiftly, this will undoubtedly prevent many from being forced back into rough sleeping and enable support to continue and trusting relationships to be built.
“However, once again it is an interim measure only. It will be vital that appropriate long-term housing and support provision is organised swiftly – and for everyone – to ensure that people are able to leave rough sleeping behind them for good.
“This must be achieved alongside a focus on tackling the underlying causes of homelessness, and supporting those becoming newly homeless, including people with no recourse to public funds.
“Without this broader approach, we risk a rise in rough sleeping just as we increase efforts to end it.”