Housing

Government pledges to make 6,000 homes available for rough sleepers

The announcement is the latest reveal of the government’s plan to stop people returning to the streets following the Covid-19 crisis

The Government will make available 6,000 new housing units to support Dame Louise Casey’s Rough Sleeping Taskforce in their mission to prevent rough sleepers from heading back to the streets after the coronavirus crisis.

The Everybody In scheme saw 90 per cent of rough sleepers known to councils across the UK offered accommodation to protect them from contracting the virus.

There have been calls for the Government to outline its next steps, including from The Big Issue, following the appointment of homelessness tsar Dame Casey at the head of a taskforce to work with councils to find long-term, safe homes.

The latest announcement revealed that the taskforce will be helped in their task with 6,000 new housing units funded by £433 million after the £381m announced for rough sleeping services at March’s Budget was accelerated to meet the immediate crisis. A total of 3,300 of these homes will be available in the next 12 months.

The Government will also fund specialist support for rough sleepers housed in these properties with revenue support of the total programme increased by 37 per cent.

As a result, specialist staff will be on hand to provide assistance with mental health or tackling substance abuse problems so that people can adapt to their new surroundings and to help prevent a return to the streets.

The setup is similar to the Housing First scheme that all-but ended street homelessness in Finland and has been at the core of Scotland’s response to rough sleeping.

“We have offered accommodation to over 90 per cent of known rough sleepers in order to help them stay safe during the pandemic. This has been possible because of an incredible effort by the government, councils and charities,” said Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP.

“Thousands of lives have been protected as a result of the shared commitment to protect the most vulnerable in our society throughout this national emergency and we continue to fund this vital project.

“This government wants to end rough sleeping for good, and we now have a real opportunity to deliver on this moral mission.”

Dame Louise Casey added: “The goal is ambitious – together, we want to do everything possible to ensure that vulnerable people who were sleeping rough and have come inside during this pandemic – some for the first time in a very long time – do not go back to the streets.

“The effort so far has been immense – councils, charities and health providers have all worked tirelessly to support some of the most vulnerable during these unprecedented times. I want to thank all of those who have already stepped up to support rough sleepers so far and those who are pledging accommodation and future support.

“We know this safe harbour is just the start – we have here an extraordinary opportunity to end rough sleeping for good.”

As well as the commitment to housing rough sleepers, the Government has put out a call for wider support, bringing together local government, charities, faith groups, public sector partners and businesses to end rough sleeping for good.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke of churches’ role in tackling rough sleeping.

He said: “Rough sleeping is a tragedy that ought to belong in the past. Everyone deserves access to safe and stable housing; it is vital for human dignity, equality and justice.

“I am enormously proud of and grateful for the amazing contribution churches across the country make in supporting those who experience rough sleeping and homelessness. I commend efforts to ensure that as we slowly emerge from lockdown no one has to return to rough sleeping and pray that they are successful.”

We know this safe harbour is just the start – we have here an extraordinary opportunity to end rough sleeping for good

This aspect of their plans has been praised by the chief executive of homelessness charity The Passage Mick Clarke. The Passage is partnering up with the new initiative through their ‘Home for Good’ scheme, which sees The Passage joining forces with Housing Justice to mobilise its network of churches and other faith and community groups.

“The Passage is very pleased to have been asked to share our learning from our Home for Good project, which matches those coming off the streets and into accommodation with a volunteer from the community they are moving to and helps them sustain their accommodation,” said Clarke.

“We are proud of our work, in collaboration with many other agencies, helping people off the streets and into temporary accommodation. As the focus moves to helping people stay off the streets, we are also proud to work in partnership with Housing Justice volunteers on our ‘Home for Good’ scheme nationally. Everyone deserves to have a place they can call home. Every one of us can play our part to help those coming off the streets sustain that home; ‘Home for Good’ is one way that those who care can get involved and do just that.”

The next step for the Government is to work with councils, local leaders and the property sector to ensure this new generation of housing for some of the most vulnerable in society is delivered as quickly as possible and in the most cost-effective way.

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