Thangam Debbonaire has called on the government to urgently restart the ‘Everyone In’ scheme to protect rough sleepers as the country heads into a second lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus and winter.
In a letter to Robert Jenrick today, the Shadow Housing Secretary told the Tory minister that it is “essential that everyone has a safe place to call home” after the Prime Minister told people to stay indoors from Thursday.
She also highlighted the need for clear rules on the use of self-contained accommodation rather than communal shelters, and called for the suspension of no recourse to public funds to ensure all rough sleepers can access support.
During the last national lockdown, the government implemented its ‘Everyone In’ policy – allocating £3.2m for local authorities and charities to expand the provision of emergency hotel and hostel accommodation for rough sleepers.
The intervention from Labour’s housing spokesperson follows demands from charities and local councillors for the government to extend the same support, which took around 15,000 homeless people off the streets in March.
Commenting on the benefits of the scheme, London deputy mayor for housing Tom Copley told The Guardian: “This is the crucial question which as of tonight we have no answer to. Rough sleepers are particularly vulnerable to Covid.
“Everyone In, pioneered in London, was world leading, and resulted in very low Covid infection rates amongst homeless people here. Now we need Everyone In two.”
Leader of Southwark council in south London Keiron Williams added: “To stay at home you have to have a home, yet the government is completely silent on support for rough sleepers during this lockdown.”
According to one study into the impact of the ‘Everyone In’ programme during the first round of Covid restrictions, the emergency accommodation provided with central government funding saved an estimated 266 people from death.
Below is the full text of the letter sent to Jenrick.
I’m writing to seek clarity on the support you will providing to rough sleepers and other people experiencing homelessness this winter.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister said: “from Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home.” For this to happen, it is essential that everyone has a safe place to call home.
The ‘Everyone In’ initiative in March was an incredible achievement by councils and charities, which saved hundreds of lives. A repeat of this success will require strong leadership and effective co-ordination from central government.
The flow of rough sleepers onto the streets has not stopped since March. Recent data for London revealed that 3 444 people had been sleeping rough between July and September this year, with 1,901 people sleeping rough for the first time. The number of young rough sleepers has increased by half.
As we head into a second lockdown, the government must urgently re-start ‘Everyone In’, to protect rough sleepers from a cold, dangerous winter. Will you issue clear instruction from central government that everyone should be brought in off the streets, and provide appropriate support for local authorities to achieve this?
Recent guidance on the use of night shelters set out that, although self-contained accommodation should be the ‘default’, communal night shelters may be permitted to open. Will you publish the advice you received from Public Health England on this point? Nobody should have to choose between a potentially unsafe communal shelter and spending the night on the streets. Given the current rates of Covid-19, will you revise this guidance to clarify that only self-contained accommodation should be used, and provide local authorities with the support to achieve this?
Finally, the first ‘Everyone In’ was a clear statement that, no matter someone’s immigration status, they should be brought in off the streets. Will you lift No Recourse to Public Funds, and ensure that everybody is helped off the streets, as happened in March?
I look forward to an urgent response to my letter. I would be grateful for the chance to meet you to discuss these concerns.