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‘Homeless will be left to freeze on the streets’

Fresh calls for an 'Everyone In 2' programme have fallen on deaf ears, say groups

21 January, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

‘While we’re on lockdown, homeless people are being locked out’

HOMELESSNESS groups have labelled government’s refusal to fully restore the ‘Everyone In’ policy for rough sleepers as “inhuman”.

The scheme during the first coronavirus lockdowns saw thousands of homeless people across the country given emergency accommodation in hotels to protect their health and stop wider transmission of the disease.

But since May, the government’s financial support for the policy has waned, the criteria has narrowed and people ineligible for benefits are among those not included.

Campaigners fear a combinations of a rampant virus and cold weather could lead to deaths on the streets. “‘Everyone In’ doesn’t mean ‘everyone’ anymore,” according to Jess Turtle, co-founder of the Museum of Homelessness.

She said the government needed to revert to extending the council’s legal obligation so that they could house people, for example, who have no recourse to public funds.

She added: ”All they’ve done is told councils to ‘redouble their efforts’ to bring people into safety and given a further £10million to be shared across all the local authorities, which is not a huge amount when you break it down.”

Newly homeless are said to be totally inequipped for survival on the streets

Rachel Cullen, manager of the Simon Community based in Kentish Town, said: “This is about those who remain on the streets.

The government can say the scheme is ongoing but they should go outside and see for themselves how many are sleeping rough.

“There are not enough shelters and hardly anywhere for people to go in the day to warm up. No day centres, no libraries, no Prets. This is during a time of year when even before Covid people’s lives would be in danger, and that hasn’t changed. Except now there is also a deadly virus.

“While we’re on lockdown, homeless people are being locked out in the cold,” she added.

The Simon Community has been unable to open its yearly winter shelter due to government restrictions requiring self-contained accommodation units.

The Museum of Homelessness say government is not listening

According to the council, around 10 new people a week are being found homeless. Camden’s housing chief councillor Nadia Shah said the council had been spending £60,000 a month on rough sleepers’ accommodation despite “stripped back funding” from the government and said they needed more support from Whitehall.

The New Journal reported last week how the council’s deal to run a Covid-secure facility in the Britannia Hotel, Belsize Park – which has been housing homeless people since March – is coming to an end.

Elodie Berland, co-ordinator of Camden’s Streets Kitchen outreach team, said: “The situation is a terrifying one. There are not enough shelters and now the hotel has closed. It’s freezing cold out there. It’s just inhuman. This is an emergency within an emergency and it’s not the time to pull back the help.”

The Salvation Army’s assistant director of homelessness services Malcolm Page said another national “Everyone In” initiative should be a “high priority” for the government.

A spokesperson for the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We have taken unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic – backed by over £700 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone.

“We’ve housed around 33,000 vulnerable people, including supporting 23,000 into settled accommodation or with move-on support.”

They added: “We’re ensuring councils and voluntary organisations have the tools and funding they need, investing over £750 million next year, and recently wrote to all councils asking them to redouble their efforts to accommodate rough sleepers.”

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