Coronavirus: Government asking councils to house all rough sleepers by weekend, says charity

Local authorities have been told to find a bed in a night shelter or hostel for all rough sleepers by the weekend in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the charity Crisis has said.

In an email to rough sleeping co-ordinators and homelessness managers, Crisis says the government has described Covid19 as a "public health emergency", telling workers that "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."

A spokesperson for the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said the government is "working intensively with councils and the sector to get everyone who is sleeping rough off the streets and into appropriate accommodation."

Charities across the south have previously called for hotels to be blocked booked in order to provide safe places for rough sleepers to self-isolate if they were displaying symptoms of Covid19.

In Southend, local charity HARP says that it supports more than 200 people who are homeless.

It's running education sessions on the effects of the virus and ramping up support for their service users to make sure everyone is safe.

Matt Turtle, co-founder of campaign group the Museum of Homelessness, said the number of people who risk becoming homeless as a result of the coronavirus is going to increase, as they become unable to buy food or pay their rent.

He said it was really difficult to keep people in shared spaces if anyone shows symptoms, and that finding a solution could "potentially save thousands of people's lives".

"If they are staying together in hostels it could literally be like a death trap to them because they are communal," he added.

"Even if one of them has symptoms it can drag everyone else down - they are exposed to more and more of the virus."