‘This is a new emergency’ – St Mungo’s calls on Government to urgently do more to protect people sleeping rough

07 January 2021

Leading homeless charity St Mungo’s has called on the Government to urgently increase protection for people sleeping rough describing the current situation as a ‘new emergency’.

It follows the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday evening (4 January) which placed England into a third lockdown in an attempt to slow the rapid spreading of COVID-19 following the emergence of a more contagious form of the virus.

The charity is urging the Government to immediately extend the Protect Programme, which was introduced in November 2020 to support people who are sleeping rough and are considered vulnerable, and is operational in 10 areas of England.

Steve Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s said: “The principles of the Protect Programme are effective but the scheme needs to be extended to cover the whole country as a matter of urgency, and should encompass all people who are sleeping on the streets who are – by definition – vulnerable.

“At this moment we are facing a new emergency: the double threats of severely cold weather and a global pandemic. And we know that people who sleep rough are at increased risk of dying from both,” Mr Douglas said.

Referencing the Everyone In scheme which was introduced in March 2020, and saw thousands of people experiencing homelessness accommodated, Mr Douglas continued: “The Government’s response to the first wave of the pandemic was unprecedented and certainly saved lives.

“The Office for National Statistics reported that 778 homeless people died in 2019, the highest number of deaths since the series began in 2013, but we know from research published in the Lancet an estimated 226 lives were saved between March and May 2020 thanks to the measures introduced to protect people sleeping rough.

“We must now see the same energy and urgency applied to the issue of those who are sleeping on the streets that we saw last March.

“It is vital that everyone who needs it is provided with Covid-secure, self-contained accommodation which they won’t have to leave without move-on accommodation and appropriate support. That should be the position no matter what the person’s immigration status or level of vulnerability.

“We will continue to work with other homelessness charities and local authorities to do all we can, but every day that the Government delays puts more and more lives seriously at risk.”