Government pledges 6,000 homes for rough sleepers after COVID-19

The government has pledged to provide 6,000 long-term homes for rough sleepers given emergency accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

6,000 new ‘housing units’ will be allocated for those currently living in emergency accommodation, with 3,300 homes to be made available within the next 12 months, the government announced this past weekend.

Rough sleepers housed through the scheme will also be provided with specialist support for mental health and substance abuse problems in a bid to prevent them returning to the streets.

The government will fund the initiative by bringing forward £160 million of the £381 million for rough sleepers’ services announced in March’s Budget, which will now be extended to £433 million.

The initiative will see the government’s rough sleeping COVID-19 response task force and Homes England work with local authorities and housing associations to fast-track the homes.

The housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “This government wants to end rough sleeping for good, and we now have a real opportunity to deliver on this moral mission.

“This will be completely transformative and changes the lives of thousands of rough sleepers for the better.”

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), 90% of rough sleepers across England have been offered emergency accommodation since the lockdown began back in March, while over 5,000 rough sleepers have been moved into hotels.

However, there has been growing concern in recent weeks that councils will not receive sufficient funding to guide those currently sheltered in hotels into long-term homes once the lockdown has ended.

The government’s announcement comes after MPs and local leaders urged it to confirm its long-term funding plans for rough sleepers, saying it risked wasting a ‘golden opportunity’ to tackle rough sleeping for good if it didn’t come up with a sound exit strategy.

Cllr David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, said: “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.”

Allowing councils to keep 100% of receipts from Right to Buy sales and extending the length of time in which they can spend this money would also help councils build new homes, Cllr Renard added.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said: “It’s great to see government recognise that the bold action taken during the pandemic can be a springboard to end rough sleeping for good. This assertive approach, alongside ring-fenced funding, is what is needed.

“We must see this commitment deliver permanent, stable homes for people, not a temporary fix. This should apply to all those currently housed in hotels and those forced onto the streets during the crisis.”

Alongside the £160 million pledge, ministers also announced an additional £6 million for frontline homelessness charities, and £700,000 from the Department of Education to help councils support care leavers at risk of homelessness and rough sleeping.

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