A £3.2 million pot will be made available to councils to ensure that rough sleepers are protected from the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has announced, after campaigners called for space to self-isolate.
All local authorities in England will be reimbursed for the cost of providing accommodation and services that will allow people sleeping rough a place to stay if they feel that they may have symptoms of the virus.
The emergency fund is in addition to the £492m committed across 2020 and 2021 to end rough sleeping by 2024 as is the Government’s stated aim.
It’s important that we care for #roughsleepers at this time.
Today I’ve announced an initial £3.2m of funding to ensure accommodation is available should individuals need to self-isolate.
And with @PHE_uk we’ve published guidance for local authorities, charities and others.
— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) March 17, 2020
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick made the announcement this afternoon after campaigners called for space to be made available for people with nowhere else to stay to self-isolate.
The Government also updated the guidelines for rough sleepers yesterday, stating that if a homeless person becomes unwell while in a day centre but has nowhere to go, they should “be isolated temporarily in an area of the day centre” while staff contact the local authority.
And that public health, housing and social care teams should work together to “identify appropriate local solutions for people who don’t have anywhere to self-isolate”.
There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
But today’s announcement gives local authorities more power to protect people who are forced to sleep rough.
“Public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society from coronavirus is this Government’s top priority,” said Jenrick. “We are working closely with councils and charities to ensure they have the support they need throughout this period.
“The initial funding that I’ve announced today will ensure councils are able to put emergency measures in place to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society to successfully self-isolate.
“I would urge anyone who is concerned about someone sleeping rough to use the Government’s StreetLink app to alert local support services who can reach out to those in need at this difficult time.”
A PLAN for #COVID_19uk and #homelessness from@streetskitchen & @our_MoH
We think it could work nationally.
Not only saving lives but reducing pressure on ambulances and A&E@mhclg @SadiqKhan @RobertJenrick @MattHancock#coronavirus #coronavirusuk #HighRiskCovid19 #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/cv9ZWuwYse
— Museum of Homelessness (@our_MoH) March 15, 2020
The Museum of Homelessness, a Big Issue Changemaker, is among several groups who have been working hard to come up with a plan to help homeless people in recent days.
“We need to make single units with bathrooms available because of the viral load,” MoH co-founder Jessica Turtle told The Big Issue. “That means if unwell people are in close proximity – for example, in a big shared sleeping space – they’ll become more unwell. It’s a cumulative effect, it isn’t a case of you’ve got it or you haven’t.”