Lives will be at risk if homeless people currently housed in otherwise empty hotels are forced back out onto the streets this summer.
This is the stark warning from homelessness charity St Mungo’s which has been supporting vulnerable people to isolate since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.
Hotels were block booked by local authorities across the country at the end of March following the Government’s message to them to get ‘Everyone in’. Since then, St Mungo’s has supported almost 2,700 people staying in emergency accommodation, and has already helped more than 300 people move from hotel rooms into a new home.
But with no clear plan emerging from Government to help those who remain in hotels, time is running out, and local authorities will have to make tough choices, warned the charity.
Dominic Williamson, Executive Director of Strategy and Policy at St Mungo’s, said: “It is my very real fear that people will die. Our whole ethos is about support and recovery for those experiencing homelessness and for them to be suddenly plucked from hotels and pushed back into no man’s land by councils who feel they have no choice carries a very real threat to the lives of those most vulnerable in society.
“Without further financial help, councils tell us they may not be able to keep people in hotels for much longer. No one wants people to go back to the dangers of sleeping rough and miss this unique opportunity to help people rebuild their lives.
“There is also the risk of a second peak in cases of coronavirus. We are not out of the woods yet from a public health point of view.
“But without urgent funding and a clear plan that guarantees no one needs to return to sleeping rough, then it is our real fear. This would throw away the opportunity we have all been given to properly tackle this issue. It will see another tragedy on top of a tragedy.”
The Government’s plan for 3,300 new homes and support for people in hotels this year was previously welcomed by the charity as a step in the right direction. However, this does not solve the issue of homes being needed right now. Neither does it solve the issue that some people in hotels are not entitled to claim benefits to help pay for housing or other basic needs, and would be facing destitution if their emergency accommodation was taken away.
In the meantime, St Mungo’s is helping people to find private rented homes, employment support and trying to negotiate places in supported housing for those who need it, but it takes time to find safe, suitable, long-term options.
St Mungo’s has a No Going Back campaign asking the Government to act to ensure there’s no going back for the thousands of people who have been helped off the streets during coronavirus.