1 June 2020

The mayor of London has warned that funding for the coronavirus emergency programme to house all rough sleepers in hotels will run out in mid-June, and without new government money there could be a surge in homeless people returning to the streets.

About 1,400 of the capital’s homeless people are currently staying in hotels at the state’s expense. “Unless we get support from the government, we haven’t got the money to continue literally to pay for the hotels past the middle of June,” Sadiq Khan said. Beyond that point, “I can’t hand on heart tell you how we can fund the work we’re doing,” he added.

Khan said he wanted to be optimistic about the possibility that the drive to bring all rough sleepers into hotels to stop the spread of the virus could have a permanent positive impact on homelessness in the capital, allowing charities time to work to help find longer-term solutions for rough sleepers.

It could be “the one silver lining from this awful virus”, he added. But he was increasingly concerned about whether central government funding would stretch to make this possible.

“We could be the generation that ends rough sleeping; we think we are on the cusp of something amazing, but it could go either way. I can’t sugar-coat it. Unless the government steps in by the middle of June, there will be a cliff-edge fall,” the mayor said in an interview with the Guardian.

“That will be so heartbreaking because we have met people who have been on our streets for years and this is the first time they have accepted help.”

He welcomed a government announcement on Saturday that funding would be brought forward to make an extra 3,300 homes available to prevent rough sleepers returning to the streets. But he said it was “vital that the government guarantees it will continue levels of support for rough sleepers right now, ensuring that we can continue to provide emergency accommodation to protect them from this deadly pandemic”.

Since lockdown was announced in March, more than 5,400 rough sleepers have been placed in Holiday Inns, Travelodges and Ibis hotels all over of England. Similar schemes are in operation elsewhere in the UK.

Those who have been staying in hotels under the emergency scheme are increasingly anxious about their future, many of them monitoring the news as announcements are made about the easing of lockdown.

Source: The Guardian