Call to provide shelter for rough sleepers over UK winter lockdown | Society

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Homelessness campaigners have demanded an urgent reboot of the government’s “Everybody In” scheme in England to provide safe shelter for thousands of rough sleepers as the UK enters another lockdown, with winter temperatures expected to plummet.

They have called on ministers to reissue strict guidance sent out in March within days of the first lockdown, which required local authorities to provide emergency accommodation to anybody at risk of being left out on the street.

“With another lockdown in force, rates of infection at record highs and freezing weather, no one should be facing the streets right now. The government has to act decisively and bring absolutely everyone in,” said Polly Neate, the chief executive of the housing charity Shelter.

The Crisis charity also called for speedy action: “It can’t be right for people to be sleeping on the streets in the dead of winter during a pandemic, especially when support services relied on by rough sleepers cannot operate,” said Matt Downie, Crisis’s director of policy.

Renters’ groups have called for a further extension to the ban on evictions, again in place since March, which is due to end on Monday. Charities are warning of an “avalanche” of private renters turned out of their homes over the next few weeks if no action is taken.

During the first lockdown the Everybody In policy saw approximately 29,000 people helped into settled accommodation, with thousands initially housed in budget hotels. The wide scope of the March guidance meant that even people normally ineligible to access homelessness support, such as migrants, were offered help.


But since June, when the guidance lapsed, and the economic recession started to deepen, homelessness numbers have been creeping back up in some parts of the country, including London, where there are an estimated 700 rough sleepers on a typical night.

The government has promised further measures to protect rough sleepers will be set out soon. But Labour says ministers have been too slow to act, despite warnings months ago, including from doctors who said rough sleepers could die without urgent action.

Ministers’ sensitivity over the issue was reflected on Wednesday when the press office at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) broke with convention by tweeting a rebuttal to the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, after he tweeted that failure to act urgently on rough sleeping would “cost lives”.

Meanwhile, a letter to the Guardian signed on behalf of the 20 members of the Renters Reform Coalition, which includes renters, housing and poverty groups, warns that more people are at risk of eviction than during the first lockdown in March.

It says: “The government must now ban evictions for the duration of any lockdown measures, to keep renters safe. A full eviction ban means pausing all court proceedings, as well as bailiff action. Renters should not be forced to attend proceedings that may put their health at risk.”

One of the members of the coalition, Citizens Advice, estimates that at least 500,000 private renters across the UK are currently in arrears. The average amount owed on rent is £700, with a total of £360m owed to landlords.


Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on housing, called for the eviction ban to be extended. “It would be nice if the government didn’t leave something this vital to the last minute.”

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We will do everything in our power to prevent people from finding themselves sleeping rough or homeless this winter, and that remains the policy of the government.

“The ongoing ‘Everyone In’ campaign is protecting thousands of lives. We’ve housed 29,000 vulnerable people; including supporting 19,000 into settled accommodation or with ‘move on’ support. We’re ensuring councils and voluntary organisations have the tools and funding they need.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Call to provide shelter for rough sleepers over UK winter lockdown | Society

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