Rough sleepers 'to be housed by weekend' amid coronavirus crisis, charity says

  • Video report by ITV News correspondent Ben Chapman

The government has reportedly asked local authorities to house all rough sleepers by the weekend amid the coronavirus crisis.

A charity supporting homeless people, Crisis, said Whitehall officials wrote to all local authorities to ask that those without a home are given safe places to stay during the national lockdown.

An official from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed the plans to ITV News on Friday morning.

In a statement, it said: “We are working intensively with councils and the sector to get everyone who is sleeping rough off the streets and into appropriate accommodation – backed by £1.6 billion of additional funding for councils to respond to pressures during this national emergency.

"This is a huge joint effort and we all need to come together – including councils, charities, health and care services, and accommodation providers – to protect rough sleepers from the virus and ensure councils have the support and crucially the accommodation they need to make this happen."

Homeless people are among the most vulnerable during the crisis. Credit: PA

The charity said the letter sent to local authorities read: "As you know, this is a public health emergency. We are all redoubling our efforts to do what we possibly can at this stage to ensure that everybody is inside and safe by this weekend, and we stand with you in this.

"These are unusual times so I’m asking for an unusual effort. Many areas of the country have already been able to ’safe harbour’ their people which is incredible. What we need to do now though is work out how we can get ‘everyone in’."

The move has been praised by homeless charities, with Crisis calling it a "landmark" moment.

Crisis Chief Executive, Jon Sparkes, said: "The Government’s insistence that everyone sleeping rough should be housed by the weekend is a landmark moment – and the right thing to do.

"Questions remain about how local councils will be supported to do this, and whether additional funding, or assistance securing hotel rooms, will be made available.

"We also need to see a package of support so that, when the outbreak subsides, the outcome is not that people return to the streets.

"The Government has committed to ending rough sleeping by 2025 – this proves it can be done in 2020 if we make it the priority it deserves to be."

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