The government has announced £105 million in funding to provide interim housing for rough sleepers staying in hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The additional funding, including £85 million of new funding from the Treasury, will help councils and charities guide rough sleepers into further accommodation, such as student accommodation, until more permanent homes become available for them.
A further £16 million has been brought forward to help vulnerable hotel guests continue to access specialist help for issues such as substance abuse so they do not end up returning to the streets once hotels re-open to the public this summer.
The housing secretary Robert Jenrick 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.”
Rough sleepers have been housed in emergency accommodation like hotels since March as local and national government raced to shield the homeless from the effects of COVID-19.
The government announced £3.2 million for councils early in the pandemic to help them house rough sleepers quickly, with over 15,000 homeless people believed to have been given shelter by the ‘Everyone In’ initiative.
It has since pledged to provide 6,000 long-term homes for those currently living in emergency accommodation, with 3,300 of these to be made available within the next 12 months.
Dame Louise Casey, the chair of the COVID-19 Rough Sleeping Taskforce, stressed that momentum must be kept up to ensure that rough sleepers do not end up needing to return to the streets.
Dame Casey said: “Everyone In has been an 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.
“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.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, called the funding a ‘real step forward’ towards tackling homelessness in England, but said that emergency legal measures are also needed to make sure that councils can give rough sleepers the support they need.
Sparkes said: “Across the country, we know that support is patchy and inconsistent, with councils often uncertain who they should be helping, and in need of clarity and direction from government.
“In addition to this very welcome extra funding we need to see additional legislation that gives everyone at risk somewhere safe to stay.”