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Fears government will axe funding for hotel homeless

Town Hall has found rooms for 122 rough sleepers since the coronavirus lockdown began in March

22 May, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Jon Glackin, founder of grassroots project Streets Kitchen

THE Town Hall has said it would be a “damning indictment” of the government if it abandons its pledge to help councils house the homeless during the coronavirus crisis.

Since the lockdown began in March, Islington Council has housed 122 rough sleepers in temporary accommodation, supported accommodation and Greater London Authority-funded hotels under the “Everyone In” directive that was issued by the government.

But a leaked report, which appeared in the Manchester Evening News, has suggested the government will no longer be funding the emergency programme. A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has denied this.

The document says that while councils can continue to accommodate people as they have done during the crisis, the government is no longer directing them to do so, nor will they receive funding to pay for it.

The Town Hall’s housing chief, Labour councillor Diarmaid Ward, said: “We haven’t had any information on this from MHCLG as yet, but it is very worrying. The current situation presents a unique opportunity to end street homelessness through a national ‘housing first’ programme and renewed commitment to council housing.

“It would be a damning indictment of this government if they instead choose to abandon local authorities and wash their hands of any responsibility.”

An MHCLG spokeswoman said: “It is simply wrong and misleading to suggest that we have stopped funding to keep rough sleepers off the street. We gave councils an initial payment of £3.2million at the start of the pandemic so they could take immediate action and help rough sleepers off the street. We have since given councils a further £3.2billion to deal with the immediate pressures they are facing, including supporting rough sleepers.”

Jon Glackin, founder of grassroots project Streets Kitchen, has warned of a looming “tsunami” of people sleeping on the streets in the months ahead, many of whom will have been made homeless during the crisis. He has called for empty properties to be used as shelters.

Government figures show more than 90 per cent of rough sleepers known to councils have been offered accommodation, but charities say many are unaccounted for in the statistics and remain on the streets.

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