16 April 2020

The government said last month it wanted to see all rough sleepers housed within a weekend.

In London, more than 1,000 rough sleepers have been put up in hotels but it is estimated there are still about 900 on streets or in shared facilities.

Homeless charities have warned against “any degree of complacency”.

According to the most recent government figures there were 4,266 rough sleepers in England in 2019, although BBC research has suggested the real figure could be more than five times higher.

The government said on Wednesday offers of safe accommodation had been made to 90% of rough sleepers.

But when asked how many rough sleepers have been housed and when, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) declined to comment.

Rough sleepers are especially vulnerable during the current pandemic, as they are three times more likely to experience a chronic health condition and are unable to self-isolate or follow sanitation guidance, according to Crisis.

Matt Downie, the charity's director of policy and external affairs, said the work to help rough sleepers was “by no means done”.

“We mustn’t congratulate ourselves and show any degree of complacency, because the rough sleepers who are still out there are in absolutely desperate situations,” he said.

Jon Glackin, founder of Streets Kitchen, said there had been "some brilliant work by local authorities in this crisis but it’s no time for patting ourselves on the back yet [as] there are far too many people still on the streets needing help”.

He added that "it doesn’t feel that 90% of homeless people have disappeared from the streets", while "the government’s estimate of how many rough sleepers there are might not be right either".

The 1,000 rough sleepers in the capital who have been put up in hotels came as a result of a £10.55m joint initiative by London mayor Sadiq Khan, MHCLG and charities.

Homeless people with Covid-19 symptoms would be referred to a specialist care facility in an east London hotel, the mayor's office said.

According to estimates by City Hall, there are still about 900 sleeping rough or in shared homeless facilities, although many of those may be helped by local schemes outside its control.

The Local Government Association has called for councils to be given more financial support by the government.

But the government said it had paid £1.6bn towards helping councils respond to coronavirus.

Source: BBC