On Friday May 15, the BBC reported that the funding scheme devised by the government to provide shelter for England’s rough sleepers during lockdown is coming to an end. The information came via a leaked report issued to The Manchester Evening News, which showed that the Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government intended to ‘draw a line’ under the programme. So far, the scheme, named ‘Everyone In’, has placed approximately 5,400 people in otherwise vacant hostels and hotels. When it was announced in March that £3.2 million would be allocated to councils for this purpose, communities secretary Robert Jenrick MP said, ‘Public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society from coronavirus is this government’s top priority… The initial funding that I’ve announced will ensure councils are able to put emergency measures in place to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society to successfully self-isolate.’
Responding to the BBC story, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted that it was, ‘A deeply worrying move from a government who claimed to be committed to protecting vulnerable rough sleepers during #COVID19. Ministers must clarify what the next steps are for the thousands of rough sleepers accommodated in hotels supported by City Hall and London’s councils.’
Hours after the story broke, the government issued a statement refuting the claim that it would be ceasing funding for ‘Everyone In’: ‘Any suggestion that the government is reneging on the commitment set out at the start of this national emergency is entirely wrong. We have been clear councils should continue to provide safe accommodation for those who need it, and any suggestion that funding is being withdrawn or people asked to leave hotels by central government is entirely incorrect.’ You can read the government’s full response to the story here.
For now, at least, it appears the funding will continue. But, as of yet, there is no definitive plan to rehouse rough sleepers whose stay in hotel and hostel rooms remains temporary. Homeless charities such as Crisis have expressed concern about a lack of safety net. Those who have been given rooms at hotels could be moved on before there is a chance to find sufficient housing. While ‘Everyone In’ has been effective, rough sleeping remains an urgent issue. As Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, stated on the charity’s website: ‘There is still a deadly virus out there and, while it’s to be commended that over 5,400 people have been given safe, temporary accommodation, the job simply isn’t finished. In London alone, hundreds remain on the streets – no provision has been made for them and it’s a desperate situation with many left hungry, isolated and at risk.’
Wish you could do more? Find out how you can help (and get help) in London during lockdown.
A London charity is fundraising to deliver surplus food to those in need.