The government needs to establish a £100m housing support fund to avoid losing a ‘golden opportunity’ to put an end to rough sleeping, says a report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.
Around 90 per cent of rough sleepers have been housed in temporary accommodation in response to COVID-19, providing a ‘unique opportunity to eradicate rough sleeping in England for once and for all’, says the committee. It wants to see at least £100m a year dedicated to long-term housing support to avoid the thousands of people in temporary accommodation ending up back on the streets, and warns of a ‘looming homelessness crisis’ as more tenants struggle to pay their rent and the three-month ban on evictions expires.
The government needs to work quickly to put in place a housing-based exit strategy and the funding to support it, the committee urges. This should be in the form of a dedicated funding stream to allow local authorities to make sure people are securely housed, as well as provide for additional support services for rough sleepers. The government recently denied press reports that it was about to stop funding the scheme to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers in hotels.
‘We must praise the efforts of all those who have done so much to help take people of the streets during the current health emergency, but what happens next is crucial,’ said committee chair Clive Betts. ‘It is simply not good enough for anyone to leave temporary accommodation and end up back on the streets. This isn’t just about protecting vulnerable people from COVID-19. It is not safe to live on the streets in any circumstances, and it is not acceptable to allow it to return once the health crisis abates.
‘In our report we have called on the government to grasp the golden opportunity that has presented itself,’ he continued. ‘For the first time in over a decade rough sleepers have been comprehensively taken off the streets and given accommodation. This must become the new norm.’
Protecting rough sleepers and renters: interim report available here.