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MPs warned that homeless people are still in an ‘emergency situation’

HOMELESSNESS campaign groups warned MPs today that there was still an “emergency situation” on the streets, with hundreds sleeping rough in London alone. 

Councillors and charities gave evidence at a housing, communities and local government select committee meeting on the progress of the Tories’ response to homelessness during the Covid-19 crisis. 

Over the past two months councils and charities have co-ordinated an unprecedented effort to move rough sleepers into hotels following a call by Housing Minister Luke Hall in March to “bring everyone” off the streets. 

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said that the efforts of councils and charities to house thousands of rough sleepers has been “phenomenal.” 

But he warned that there was still an “emergency situation,” with people on the streets who are “dangerously exposed to the virus.” 

London Housing Directors’ Network co-chairman Jamie Carwell told the committee that although 3,600 people have been housed in London, there were still 500 on the streets. 

Alarmingly, he noted that many of these people have been made homeless recently as a result of losing their jobs or leaving abusive relationships. 

“As we are picking people up and placing them, finding them hotels or other accommodation, there are newly rising rough sleepers,” Mr Carwell said. 

“And it’s not the same 500 that it was two weeks ago — we are monitoring this weekly.”

The senior housing official revealed that the numbers of people presenting as homeless to councils had also increased to pre-lockdown levels. 

Last week 2,634 people had approached services in London to say that they were at risk of homelessness or were already on the streets, he said. 

Front-line groups have also reported seeing new rough sleepers, including Sikh charity Nishkam SWAT, which has been distributing food to the homeless in central London. 

Founder Randeep Lall told the Morning Star: “We’ve been 10 years in the city, in the heart of London, serving the homeless, and I expected a radical reduction in homeless people that we were going to be serving. But … we saw an increase of people on the streets.”

At the committee meeting Mr Hall was grilled about government plans to prevent more people from losing their homes amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis. 

He said there were “ongoing discussions” about extending the three-month eviction ban but said it was unlikely his department would increase the local housing allowance benefit, which helps private tenants cover their rent. 

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