Government orders councils to house all homeless by weekend

All councils in England have been ordered to find accommodation for their homeless residents by this weekend as the government continued to ramp up measures against the spread of coronavirus.

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On Friday (March 27), homeless charities reported receiving an email from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that described the government’s latest directive in further detail.

Crisis, a nationwide rough sleeping charity, described how the email detailed the government’s aim to “stand with” homeless charities in housing people as soon as possible during the “public health emergency” of Covid-19 coronavirus.

Crisis quoted the email as saying: “As you know, this is a public health emergency.

“We are all redoubling our efforts to do what we possibly can at this stage to ensure that everybody is inside and safe by this weekend, and we stand with you in this.

“These are unusual times so I’m asking for an unusual effort. Many areas of the country have already been able to ‘safe harbour’ their people which is incredible.

“What we need to do now though is work out how we can get ‘everyone in’.”

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said: “The Government’s insistence that everyone sleeping rough should be housed by the weekend is a landmark moment – and the right thing to do.

“Questions remain about how local councils will be supported to do this, and whether additional funding, or assistance securing hotel rooms, will be made available.

“We also need to see a package of support so that, when the outbreak subsides, the outcome is not that people return to the streets.

“The Government has committed to ending rough sleeping by 2025 – this proves it can be done in 2020 if we make it the priority it deserves to be.”

To get “everyone in” by the weekend, Crisis says the Government should launch a national appeal for accommodation, which would include empty apartment blocks and hotels.

And it should provide funding so councils can pay for the upfront costs of getting everyone into accommodation.

Councillor James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “This will be a huge task given the shortage of accommodation available, with many councils now affected by the recent closures of hotels and the difficulties some have faced where rough sleepers refuse to engage or take up the offer of help.”

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