Shelter the homeless?

Those sleeping rough will have a roof over their heads

Independent

Homeless people 'scared and hungry' on streets despite promise to house them over weekend

Homeless people are "scared, hungry and desperate" as they continue to survive on the streets during the coronavirus pandemic despite a government order for local authorities to place rough sleepers in hotels or other accommodation over the weekend, charities have warned.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government ( MHCLG) wrote to local councils in England on Friday saying they must find accommodation for all rough sleepers by the weekend, as part of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

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What is being done to protect the homeless during the coronavirus?

By Joe Harker

The government has told local authorities to "do all they can" to get rough sleepers into accommodation.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was aiming to keep people safe, with the coronavirus posing a particular threat to the homeless as they have nowhere to self-isolate and have fewer people donating money so they can afford food.

This weekend was the target for local authorities to get Britain's rough sleepers indoors, so have they succeeded and what are the challenges facing the homeless at this time?

The Claim:

Hotels and offices, now very empty because of social distancing, are being converted into emergency safe spaces for rough sleepers to be sheltered in.

Up to 45,000 spaces will need to be converted into accommodation where people without a home can live during difficult times. Data from charity Crisis estimates that there are around 40,000 people living in hostels and shelters while there are another 5,000 people sleeping on the streets.

Care will need to be taken to ensure the places the homeless are being offered are suitable for living in, it is not simply a matter of finding whatever hotel rooms are available or identifying a disused office block.

The hotel rooms which councils are block booking for the next few months are not free, but they are being offered at a "substantially discounted rate".

It is imperative that the most vulnerable in society are looked after during the pandemic, but the protection should not be rescinded once the coronavirus is gone. Once the pandemic is over are the government going to order the homeless back onto the streets?

That cannot be right, and the quick response in the face of the pandemic begs the question as to why such drastic measures weren't taken sooner. Did the government really need the coronavirus to push them into more dramatic help for the homeless?

The Counter Claim:

Like many of the government's attempts to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus there are some holes which have started to appear in the policy.

Britain has thousands of "hidden homeless", those who are sofa-surfing and not always visible to the public or shelters.

The BBC reports that a 19 year old living in a hostel that was closing and working in a restaurant which shut was told by their local council they'd have to start sleeping rough before they could receive help.

They were advised to sleep on the streets in a certain area within the council's jurisdiction so that an outreach team could come and find them. Others in the same hostel were also left with nowhere to go after government lockdown measures caused it to close.

Crisis has also said that many more are still "scared and hungry" on the streets despite the government's target being the weekend just gone.

A lack of clarity from the government and a loss of support systems during the lockdown means local authorities will need to find their homeless citizens quickly or run the risk of putting them in even greater danger.

The Facts:

The homeless are three times more likely to have respiratory problems which makes them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Many of those who have died after contracting the virus had existing health conditions.

Research from University College London found that it would be less expensive to house the homeless in hotels than end up having to treat them in hospitals.

Homeless charity Shelter estimates that there are around 320,000 homeless in the UK, with Britain's several thousand rough sleepers just the tip of the iceberg.

Many thousands of people are stuck in temporary accommodation, already living in hotels or B&Bs while waiting for a more permanent home to become available.

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