Emergency funding totalling £3.2m to help rough sleepers to self-isolate has been announced by communities secretary Robert Jenrick. Homelessness organisations have been highly critical of the lack of support and guidance from central government on how people sleeping rough during the coronavirus outbreak could be protected.
The funding represents ‘an initial first step’ to help frontline services and local authorities put emergency measures in place, the government says. The money will reimburse local councils for the cost of providing accommodation and services to people staying in night shelters and other locations to help them to self-isolate. The government would keep the situation under review and continue to work closely with local authorities to make sure people have access to the right support, it said.
‘Public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society from coronavirus is this government’s top priority,’ said Robert Jenrick. ‘We are working closely with councils and charities to ensure they have the support they need throughout this period. The initial funding that I’ve announced today 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. I would urge anyone who is concerned about someone sleeping rough to use the government’s StreetLink app to alert local support services who can reach out to those in need at this difficult time.’
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said that while the announcement was ‘an important step’, leaving each local authority to decide how they would respond was a ‘piecemeal and insufficient’ approach. ‘What we really need is a coordinated plan from national government to ensure people experiencing homelessness have immediate access to appropriate housing during this outbreak,’ he stated. ‘We also need to see a cross-government effort to prevent soaring levels of homelessness in the wake of COVID-19 – this should include a ban on evictions and additional financial support through the universal credit system. Last month, the government appointed Dame Louise Casey as their rough sleeping tsar, starting after Easter – we urge them to bring this appointment forward so that she can lead the robust response needed.’