THE Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has announced urgent measures to house 1,000 rough sleepers in hotels to help them through the coronavirus outbreak.
Hoteliers across Greater Manchester have made 625 hotel rooms immediately available to rough sleepers and those in shared hostels to help them self-isolate from the coronavirus, while a further 375 hotel rooms will be found in the next 48 hours.
The emergency scheme will run for an initial 12 week period, although it may potentially be extended if necessary.
The £5 million response comes after a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA)’s COVID-19 Emergency Committee, in recognition of the risk posed to rough sleepers and homeless people by the coronavirus in shared accommodation.
Burnham said: ‘I’m announcing extensive plans to support people sleeping rough and in shared temporary accommodation in our city-region as a matter of urgency – this is our humanitarian response at a time of a national public health crisis.
‘The negative impact street homelessness can have on a person’s mental and physical health is well known, and that is before you take into account the very real risks posed by possibly catching coronavirus.
“We have moved swiftly to work with our 10 local authorities, NHS and the private and faith sectors to source enough accommodation in some of our city-region’s large hotels for everyone who needs it.’
Since his election Burnham has been vocal in his aim to end rough sleeping in Greater Manchester, and he appears to be making progress as official figures identify a decrease of nearly 50% of people sleeping outdoors in the city-region over the last two years.
This progress has partly been made through the mayor’s A Bed Every Night scheme which operates emergency accommodation in each of Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs.
However, as much of that accommodation relies on the use of shared spaces such as bedrooms and kitchens which could facilitate the spread of coronavirus, the city-region has quickly had to find an alternative solution.
In addition to providing rough sleepers with somewhere to stay, Burnham said that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will also provide them with ‘essential services’ such as food, access to medicines and targeted physical and mental health support.
Officials estimate that around 1,000 people across Greater Manchester will require hotel rooms over the next 12 weeks, including 720 who will have moved out of shared emergency accommodation and around 280 otherwise at risk of sleeping rough.
Some of those staying in hotels will be given mobile phones to help them stay in contact with social workers while social distancing remains in force, while social and health workers will be re-deployed to support them.
Those staying in hotels will also receive welfare packages sourced through the Greater Manchester Homeless Action Network, which will include dry food, eating utensils and hygiene essentials like sanitary and dental products.
Existing day centres, soup kitchens and volunteering restaurants across the city-region will be used to ensure that people receive prepared meals, while Transport for Greater Manchester is procuring a Greater Manchester-wide black cab contract to transfer people and belongings over the initial 12 week period.
Burnham added: ‘Greater Manchester is a compassionate society – we don’t just walk on by. We have a moral and ethical duty to help those living vulnerable and dangerous lives on the streets, and I am proud of the package we have put in place.
‘No-one should have to sleep rough, especially at this uncertain time, and here in Greater Manchester we are making sure no-one has to.’
This morning, Leeds City Council also announced its continued support for the city’s homeless people and rough sleepers during the coronavirus crisis.
The council is currently exploring additional measures to stop the virus’ potential spread in its accommodation, and has already secured additional emergency accommodation to support those in need.