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Labour urges government to support councils to help homeless people get off the streets permanently

LABOUR called on the government today to seize a “once in a generation opportunity” to tackle rough sleeping following the coronavirus crisis.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer joined Labour’s mayors in England’s biggest cities to call on the government to honour its commitment to end rough sleeping.

More than 5,000 rough sleepers have been offered emergency accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to official figures, including in hotels.

But the government has so far failed to commit to supporting those rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation.

A ministerial letter leaked from Greater Manchester Combined Authority last week revealed that the Tories had no plans to provide further funding for the Everyone In scheme, which is thought to have housed 5,400 people.

Instead the government is encouraging councils to use their own resources to move rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation according to their statutory duties. 

    Labour warned that without additional support and “certainty over the future funding arrangements” rough sleepers could end up “back on the streets.”

    The statement was signed by Mr Starmer, shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotheram, Sheffield City Mayor Dan Jarvis, and North Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll.

    It also urges the government to offer support to non-UK nationals who “wouldn’t normally be able to access welfare and other support,” otherwise known as having no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

    The letter comes after homelessness charity St Mungo’s published a set of five demands this week as part of its No Going Back campaign, so that rough sleepers do not return to the streets when the lockdown is eased.

    The demands include making sure no-one is forced out of emergency accommodation without being offered suitable alternative housing, as well as more support for people with complex needs. 

    In addition, the government must ensure there is enough housing for domestic abuse survivors and must continue to pay for housing for individuals with NRPF, the charity added.

    London Councils, the cross-party group for boroughs in the capital, has found that 25 per cent of the 3,600 rough sleepers housed in London during the pandemic are migrants with NRPF.

    In Scotland the government has been urged to put a “triple lock” in place to help eliminate homelessness across the country. 

    A newly formed collective called Everyone Home — made up of 19 charities and campaign groups — delivered plans to ministers today.

    Shelter Scotland deputy director Alison Watson warned that “there is a real risk that more people will be swept into homelessness in the months ahead” when the lockdown is lifted.

    The Everyone Home plan would see the government cease evictions when the tenant has nowhere else to go and working to prevent a return to pre-pandemic levels of rough sleeping.

    Homeless Network chairman Paul McKay said: “The pandemic will have a disproportionate impact on people who experience all types of disadvantage, potentially driving up homelessness.

    “By implementing the measures outlined in this plan, Scotland has a unique window to end rough sleeping and mitigate the impact of all forms of homelessness.”

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