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‘This broken promise will cost lives’: Campaigners urge Everyone In return

With no sign that rough sleepers will be brought in to hotels once more, homeless deaths campaigners warn loss of life is ‘clearly inevitable’

A coalition of campaigners set up to end homeless deaths have called on the Government to bring back the Everyone In scheme to ensure the loss of life on Britain’s streets is no longer “clearly inevitable”.

The Dying Homeless Coalition formed last month, bringing together homelessness experts, charities, academics and journalists, including from The Big Issue, following last month’s announcement that a record-high number of people died without a secure home in 2019.

The rapid rise in cases driven by the new Covid-19 strain and a new national lockdown has urged the group to call for a return of the Everyone In scheme which protected 15,000 people in hotels and emergency accommodation at its peak through the first lockdown last spring.

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One of the founding members of the Dying Homeless Coalition Jess Turtle said: “The Dying Homeless Coalition calls for a clear directive from government for unconditional, safe shelter to people experiencing homelessness until at least the end of this lockdown. We also call for funding for local authorities to support this. 

“Due to the cold weather and increased transmission rate of the virus, preventable deaths are so clearly inevitable if this does not happen immediately.”

The call for Everyone In to return has been echoed by Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire who warned failure to protect rough sleepers is a “broken promise that will cost lives”.

The UK recorded its highest number of deaths since April on Wednesday with 1,041 people reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.

Despite the growing health crisis, the UK Government has yet to indicate that the Everyone In scheme will return. A University College London study showed that the scheme saved as many as 266 lives during the first national lockdown.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) instead vowed to spend £750m on tackling homelessness. The government department pointed to the £15m Protect Programme, £91.5m allocated to 274 councils to fund individual rough sleeping plans and a £10m Cold Weather Fund to help keep rough sleepers safe this winter.

A MHCLG spokesperson said: “The Government has taken unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic – backed by over £700 million in funding.

“We continue to work closely with councils and health services to provide this support.”

But the Dying Homeless Coalition has urged people to tweet or write to their MP to convince the government to act to protect everyone experiencing homelessness. The Coalition has also insisted that any action must include people in overcrowded temporary or emergency accommodation, migrants who have no access to state support and LGBTIQ+ people.

Labour’s Debbonaire has been calling for the return of the Everyone In scheme since the start of the so-called second wave of Covid-19 cases in the autumn.

Debbonaire has repeated her calls for the scheme to return. She said: “This is shocking, and extremely irresponsible. One in 50 people in the UK have Covid-19, and rough sleepers are some of the most exposed in our society.

“Labour has been calling for protection for rough sleepers for months.

“The Government has asked everyone to stay at home, at the same time as they turn their back on people without a home. This broken promise will cost lives.”