As first was going to press, councils were being asked by government to urgently support rough sleepers and vulnerable homeless people into accommodation – even as many councils were continuing to experience issues with placing homeless households in hotels and B&Bs.
Hotels, hostels and B&Bs were among the businesses required to close earlier this month, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, but were told they could remain open if providing rooms for homeless people.
Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman, said: “Councils have been working hard to identify rough sleepers and homeless people, get them off the streets and into suitable accommodation and help protect them from the coronavirus.
“This will be a huge task given the shortage of accommodation available with many councils now affected by the recent closures of hotels and the difficulties some have faced where rough sleepers refuse to engage or take up the offer of help.
“To help these efforts, some councils will need to call on the Government for urgent help to find accommodation and enforce this, and have access to funding, if they need it, to cover additional staffing and support costs.”
The Government set aside £3.2 million of emergency funding to help councils support rough sleepers to self-isolate. Across the country, they are making significant efforts to ensure that people experiencing homelessness – including those sleeping rough and in night shelters – are safely housed and, where needed, isolated as part of wider efforts to contain COVID-19.
But homelessness services remain under huge pressure as a result of rising demand driven by a historic shortage of social housing. Further guidance on homelessness is expected to clarify the roles of local structures, including local resilience forums, NHS and public health services, homelessness teams, and accommodation providers.