15 April 2020

Ministers and London mayor Sadiq Khan have together committed £10.6m to pay for hotels and support for rough sleepers during the pandemic.

The government and the Greater London Authority (GLA) have been working with charities to block-book rooms in a bid to help rough sleepers follow self-isolation guidelines.

It comes after the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government wrote to all councils late last month telling them to house all rough sleepers and people in hostels and night shelters as a response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Hotel chains Travelodge, Best Western, Accor Group and the InterContinental Hotels Group have agreed to the initiative.

Homelessness charity St Mungo’s is overseeing support provision with help from Depaul, Thames Reach and Look Ahead, while Change Grow Live is offering specialist substance misuse support across the hotels where needed.

Black cab drivers have volunteered to take people between services, while catering company Red Radish is supplying residents with three meals a day.

According to official government figures based on a single-night count in autumn 2019, there are 1,136 rough sleepers across the capital.

Rough sleepers are significantly more likely to have underlying health conditions which could increase their vulnerability to COVID-19 and are often unable to follow Public Health England advice to minimise their risk of infection.

From this week, rough sleepers who develop symptoms of the virus will be referred to a specialist care facility at an east London hotel.

Mr Khan said: “The speed with which we have acted, and the willingness of multinational companies to work with us at this critical time, is testament to what can be achieved when we work together.

“There is still much to do: more money, volunteers and hotel rooms will be required. Looking ahead, my aim is to make sure that the ‘in for good’ principles are applied for all London’s rough sleepers – something that will require continued support from the government.

“I am confident that by working together we can help save the lives of many Londoners who would otherwise be facing the pandemic on the streets.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “This government is committed to ensuring that those who are sleeping rough on our capital’s streets are protected from this pandemic.

“Today’s news is the result of a real collaborative effort between the government, the mayor of London, local authorities, health providers and charities to provide help to those who are most in need during this national emergency.”

Source: Inside Housing