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Time is running out to prevent rough sleepers ending up back on the street, warns Christian charity

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian homelessness charity has urged the Government to speed up pledged funding of £160 million, and make sure people housed in hotels during the Covid-19 crisis do not end up back on the street.

As hotels start to re-open for business on 4th July, Oasis Community Housing has also called for clarity on how the Government plans to seize this opportunity to fix the rough sleepers problem for good.

David Smith, chief executive of the charity said: "Hotels reopen from July 4th, we are concerned that people who have been living there will end up with no clear next step. We have already heard of hotels that won't be taking in anyone new under the 'Everyone In' scheme," 

"While we welcome the Government's response so far, there is a lack of clarity among local authorities and charities like ourselves about what to do next. Various local authorities up and down the country are taking different approaches. We are urging swift action to bring funding and agencies together and not miss this opportunity to end homelessness in the UK."

In its announcement last week, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless will be helped to secure their own tenancies through £105 million, £85 million of which is new funding.

The Treasury money will also help them put down deposits for accommodation and secure thousands of rooms already available, such as student accommodation, while they wait for a permanent home.

Almost 15,000 people were in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, to keep them safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Approximately 5,000-7,000 of these had been sleeping rough, and 2,000 were in communal night shelters.

Smith believes the momentum for change is already there. He said  homelessness charities and agencies have been working together in schemes such as 'Everyone In' and have seen many of the 15,000 rough sleepers in temporary accommodation make progress while in lockdown.

"So many rough sleepers are dealing with deep trauma and are trapped in cycles that will take more than a quick placement in a hotel to break," he said. 

 "It's vital that agencies like ours are engaged with local authorities to ensure a smooth transition for the thousands who will be leaving hotels in the coming days and weeks.

"We need to get this moment right and have a greater ambition for housing all of those who've been in hotels, with the support that they need, and not just let them slip back into rough sleeping or other forms of homelessness."

Oasis Community Housing, which runs homelessness projects in Gateshead and Sunderland, has supported 237 people temporarily housed in local hotels through the pandemic. The charity has also maintained a lifeline for those evicted from temporary accommodation, and others too frightened to take up the offer due to domestic abuse situations, for example. 

Phil Conn from the charity said: "The old model of short-term hostel accommodation is not working - rough sleeping has increased by 165%* in the last decade. Dame Louise Casey, head of the Rough Sleeping Taskforce has said that there should be 'no going back to the streets' after the emergency

'Everyone In' initiative. We agree. The answer is not more emergency accommodation - we need a concerted effort from local authorities and support agencies to help people into tenancies of their own."

Listen to Premier's interview with David Smith here:

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