Ministers vow to build 3,300 homes over a year to ‘end rough sleeping for good’ in £160m drive to stop people housed during coronavirus pandemic returning to the streets
- The 3,300 homes are due to become available in the next 12 months
- Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick described the cash injection as ‘unprecedented’
- More than 5,400 homeless people were offered safe accommodation in April
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Government homelessness investment is being fast-tracked to ensure more than 3,000 new homes for rough sleepers aided during the coronavirus pandemic.
The investment will be available in the next 12 months and will see £160million of a £281million four-year pot brought forward to be spent this year.
It aims to prevent those taken off the streets during the pandemic to return to homelessness once it is over.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick described the cash injection which was first announced in March’s Budget as ‘unprecedented’.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured) described the cash injection which was first announced in March’s Budget as ‘unprecedented’
Of the 6,000 planned ‘housing units’ due to be built using the money, 3,300 of those are due to become available in the next 12 months due to a fiscal advance, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
The announcement comes after MPs on the housing, communities and local government committee warned this week that a golden opportunity to end rough sleeping would be lost if the Government did not commit at least £100million per year to the cause.
More than 5,400 homeless people were offered safe accommodation in April to protect them during the outbreak, according to Government figures.
This number is said to be around 90 per cent of those living on the streets.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, along with the party’s metro mayors, including Greater Manchester leader Andy Burnham, also urged ministers to act this week.
The political figures spoke out after fears were raised that funding to support homeless people was about to be withdrawn.
A report from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), leaked to the Manchester Evening News, claimed the Government had ‘drawn a line’ under the Everyone In scheme and would no longer stump up the money to house rough sleepers.
But Mr Jenrick said his department would ‘continue to fund’ efforts started since the outbreak hit UK shores, with the new cash to be used to help move those currently in temporary accommodation into more sustainable, long-term housing.
He said: ‘This Government wants to end rough sleeping for good, and we now have a real opportunity to deliver on this moral mission.
‘I’m backing this effort with £160million to fast-track the longer-term and safe accommodation needed to ensure as few rough sleepers as possible return to the streets.
‘This is an unprecedented commitment – the most ambitious of its kind and the single biggest injection of specialist accommodation since the rough sleepers initiative began.’
A MHCLG spokesman said the Government is also set to increase the revenue support of the total programme by 37 per cent to make sure rough sleepers ‘have the support they need to stay off the streets for good’.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (pictured), along with the party’s metro mayors, including Greater Manchester leader Andy Burnham, also urged ministers to act this week
It will see funding increase by an additional £50million to £433million.
Once in their new home, rough sleepers will be supported by specialist staff to access the help, such as support for mental health or substance abuse problems, they need to rebuild their lives, undergo training and take up work.
The plans are being put together by the rough sleeping Covid-19 response taskforce, led by Dame Louise Casey, which has brought together local government, charities, faith groups, public sector partners and businesses.
Dame Casey said: ‘The goal is ambitious. Together, we want to do everything possible to ensure that vulnerable people who were sleeping rough and have come inside during this pandemic, some for the first time in a very long time, do not go back to the streets.’
Home England’s chief executive Nick Walkley added: ‘The steps taken to reduce homelessness have been one of the few silver linings in recent months.
‘We look forward to working closely with MHCLG and our partners to support the taskforce.’
Ministers have also announced a further £6million for frontline homeless charities.
The Department for Education will be providing more than £700,000 for councils to support care leavers at risk of homelessness and rough sleeping.
Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate said: ‘It’s encouraging that the Government is taking homelessness seriously, and any accommodation to support rough sleepers is welcome.
‘But this pandemic has highlighted the extent of our housing emergency, from people sleeping on the streets, to families living in grim temporary accommodation, to struggling renters facing mounting debt and rent arrears having lost their jobs due to coronavirus.
‘If Government truly wants to keep people off the streets during this pandemic, it must give judges the power to ensure thousands of renters aren’t made homeless when the eviction freeze ends in June.
‘And ultimately, we won’t solve homelessness without building the new generation of genuinely affordable social homes that this country desperately needs.’
In mid-April, more than 1,000 homeless people in London began self-isolating in hotels after being taken off the streets.
The Intercontinental Hotel Group, Travelodge, Best Western and Accor are all giving up rooms to make sure homeless Londoners were protected.
Rough sleepers are more likely to have underlying health conditions, particularly respiratory ones, than the rest of the population. They also have little access to handwashing or hygiene facilities.
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