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Labour calls on Government to protect rough sleepers at Christmas

Shadow Housing Secretary Thangham Debbonaire is leading Labour’s winter homelessness campaign, calling for everyone to have a safe Covid-secure place to stay out of the cold.
Those who are rough sleeping and homeless must be protected, the government have been told. Credit: Roger A Smith

Labour has called on the Government to make sure everyone has a safe, Covid-secure place to stay this winter as part of a push to support rough sleepers at Christmas.

The Government stepped in to protect rough sleepers in England during the first national lockdown through the Everyone In scheme but there has been no repeat of the nationwide call for the winter.

Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire slammed the Government for failing to make good on the potential the Covid-19 pandemic presented to end rough sleeping as thousands prepare to spend Christmas on the streets.

“There shouldn’t be anybody on the streets and everyone deserves a safe place to stay,” Debbonaire said. “The Government has committed to ending rough sleeping for good. It did that a few years ago too but it had real potential this year to stick to that commitment and keep everyone in and make sure that Everyone In genuinely meant Everybody in.

“Unfortunately they have failed. What we are calling for them to do is to live up to their words.”

Labour’s campaign is urging the Government to step in this winter to ensure that everyone has a place to stay regardless of nationality, including people who have no recourse to public funds and have no access to benefits due to their immigration status.

The party is also calling for young people, those fleeing domestic abuse and LGBT+ homeless people to have access to specialist services and protect rough sleepers over Christmas.

Debbonaire has warned that the cold, wet winter is “made even more dangerous” by the Covid-19 pandemic and homeless services don’t have the tools they would usually use to help people off the streets with shelters at severely reduced capacity due to the virus.

“There shouldn’t be anybody on the streets and everyone deserves a safe place to stay.” – Thangam Debbonaire

She has called on the Government to keep its promise to end rough sleeping for good by 2024.

Bristol West MP Debbonaire added: “The Government had the chance to make good on their promise that nobody should go back to the streets and they could end rough sleeping for good.

“But here we are in the winter and that commitment should be the same now because we are in the second wave and we haven’t got vaccination yet.”

The government pointed to the £15m Protect Programme and £10m Cold Weather Fund as their support for rough sleepers this winter. There is also a £2m Homelessness Winter Transformation Fund for faith, community and voluntary organisations to move away from communal models for accommodating rough sleepers.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that more than 29,000 people have been supported through the Everyone In campaign, including 19,000 moved into settled accommodation while 10,000 are in emergency accommodation.

A government spokesperson said: “Our comprehensive package of support will ensure councils and voluntary organisations have the tools and funding they need to support vulnerable rough sleepers off the streets this winter.”