The Big Issue founder Lord John Bird, reacting to today’s announcement, told Sky News this morning: “We’ve got to protect people on the streets. Their immune systems are much lower than everybody else, they need to be aided and abetted in getting away from the threat of the coronavirus.
“Since Friday we have stopped selling The Big Issue on the streets on the advice of the government because they told us their plans. We don’t want them catching the coronavirus and having the kind of illnesses that go with it.”
Before the coronavirus outbreak, the Government had pledged to end rough sleeping by the end of their term in power in the next five years.
The Government has committed to ending rough sleeping by 2025 – this proves it can be done in 2020 if we make it the priority it deserves to be
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, insisted that the emergency action taken by the authorities shows that the target can be achieved and is a merely a question of political will.
“The Government’s insistence that everyone sleeping rough should be housed by the weekend is a landmark moment – and the right thing to do,” he said.
“Questions remain about how local councils will be supported to do this, and whether additional funding, or assistance securing hotel rooms, will be made available. We also need to see a package of support so that, when the outbreak subsides, the outcome is not that people return to the streets.
“The Government has committed to ending rough sleeping by 2025 – this proves it can be done in 2020 if we make it the priority it deserves to be.”
The Local Government Association share Crisis’ concerns about how already stretched councils will comply with the measures.
Cllr James Jamieson, LGA chairman, said: “Councils have been working hard to identify rough sleepers and homeless people, get them off the streets and into suitable accommodation and help protect them from the coronavirus.
“This will be a huge task given the shortage of accommodation available with many councils now affected by the recent closures of hotels and the difficulties some have faced where rough sleepers refuse to engage or take up the offer of help.
“To help these efforts, some councils will need to call on the Government for urgent help to find accommodation and enforce this and have access to funding if they need to cover additional staffing and support costs.”