Liverpool plans to open up vacant properties to rough sleepers

Liverpool City Council has announced proposals to help rough sleepers staying in hotels during the COVID-19 lockdown find a permanent home in the city’s vacant properties.

The plans, which will go before the council’s cabinet tomorrow (Friday 3 July), will see properties across Liverpool made available for people staying in emergency accommodation during the coronavirus crisis.

370 suitable cases have been identified and Liverpool’s housing associations have so far made over 200 properties available for the scheme, of which over half have been matched with suitable applicants.

The scheme will be funded via a combination of existing council resources and Liverpool’s share of the £105 million the government is offering local authorities to guide rough sleepers into future accommodation.

The scheme makes Liverpool the first Northern council to offer rough sleepers such support, leading to charities to call for other councils to follow its lead.

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for adult health and social care, Cllr Paul Brant, said: “For too long the presence of rough sleepers on the streets has been a scar on the conscience of our nation.

“Liverpool Council is determined to stop a slide back to the pre COVID-19 position by default. Working with housing charities and local social housing providers, this scheme provides a piece of the jigsaw of measures which are being put in place.”

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, vacant social housing spaces across Liverpool were advertised through the Property Pool Plus housing allocation scheme, which invited applicants to bid for properties and awarded tenancies based on applicants’ needs.

The council has now suspended the old bidding system and made the properties available to those moving on from hostels and hotels which are soon set to re-open.

In addition to having homes found for them, tenants will be given furniture and care packages, while local homeless services will continue to offer them specialist support once they move in.

Properties that are not appropriate for allocation in this way will continue to be allocated through the usual process.

Bronwen Rapley, chair of Liverpool City Region Housing Associations, said: “It has been inspiring to see the immediate response to the COVID crisis develop into something that is building long-term solutions for people who have found themselves homeless.

“Working in partnership is moving us toward the goal that every individual has the right home with the right support and the City’s housing associations are proud to play their part.”

Liverpool City Council’s initiative has been praised by the homelessness charity Crisis, which said that it ‘provides clear evidence that homelessness can be ended for good’.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It is brilliant to hear that Liverpool City Council, housing associations and charities are working together to ensure that those who have been sheltered in hotels and temporary accommodation during the outbreak have somewhere safe and settled to live once the hotel contracts come to an end.

“If there is one silver lining from the pandemic it is that, with the right support, people who were sleeping rough may never have to return to the streets again.”

This month, Greater Manchester will begin the third phase of its A Bed Every Night scheme, which will deliver 445 beds for rough sleepers across the city region until March 2021.

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