As a second lockdown looms over England, homelessness charities and councillors have urged the government to bring back a scheme thought to have saved the lives of hundreds of rough sleepers during the first.
About 15,000 homeless people were provided emergency accommodation in hotels in March and April this year as part of the “everyone in” policy. According to one study, the scheme saved an estimated 266 people from death.
As details of England’s second lockdown appeared in the media and on reporters’ Twitter feeds on Saturday, homeless campaigners issued a fresh plea for a return to the policy.
“With a new lockdown imminent, the UK government must bring ‘Everyone In’ back in England with ring-fenced funding for local councils to provide Covid-safe accommodation for anyone experiencing or at risk of rough sleeping,” said Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis.
This was echoed by Chris Wood, Shelter’s assistant director of research, who added that “this time” there must be “clear guidance to ensure it is everyone. No one should fall through the cracks this winter”.
When prime minister Boris Johnson eventually announced the “tougher national restrictions” during a Downing Street briefing on Saturday evening, no details of additional support for rough sleepers were offered, or requested in question from the press and public.
Peter Apps, deputy editor of Inside Housing, tweeted that the issue was also “notable by absence” in a series of key questions and answers the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, shared following the announcement of the new restrictions.
Tom Copley, London’s deputy mayor for housing, said: “This is the crucial question which as of tonight we have no answer to. Rough sleepers are particularly vulnerable to Covid.
“Everyone In, pioneered in London, was world leading, and resulted in very low Covid infection rates amongst homeless people here. Now we need Everyone In 2.”
He called on ministers to set out very quickly what additional funding they would provide to enable rough sleepers to be helped into Covid-safe accommodation as during the first lockdown.
Keiron Williams, the leader of Southwark council in south London, added: “To stay at home you have to have a home, yet the government is completely silent on support for rough sleepers during this lockdown.”
Last month doctors signed a letter warning that rough sleepers in the UK would die without a repeat of the “everyone in” policy adopted in March and April. Homeless people faced a dilemma between staying outside or squeezing into crowded shelters where Covid protection measures will be limited, the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of General Practitioners told ministers.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted for comment.