The Government gives councils £3.2m to support rough sleepers with COVID-19

Local authorities will be reimbursed for providing accommodation to help people living on the streets self-isolate, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced

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.

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”.

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Since 1991 The Big Issue has sold more than 200,000,000 copies – helping the most vulnerable in society earn more than £115 million.

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.”

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.”