New £12m winter fund for rough sleeping ‘not enough’, say council and charities

A new £12m ‘cold weather fund’ to help rough sleepers into accommodation and keep them Covid-safe over the winter has been announced by the government.

But Manchester council say the funding does not go far enough, while homelessness charities have warned that plans to reopen communal night shelters could risk lives.

The fund will be split into a £10m cold weather payment to support local authorities in providing self-contained accommodation.

An additional £2m will be made available to faith groups and community groups to secure accommodation for rough sleepers.

Housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “As we approach winter, we are focusing on the best way to protect rough sleepers from the cold weather and coronavirus.

“The funding and guidance I’m announcing today will mean that working with councils and community groups, some of the most vulnerable people in society are given support and a safe place to stay this winter.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick
(Image: Getty Images)

The government has also drawn up new guidance for night shelter providers on how to safely open their doors during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Traditional shelters should only open ‘as a last resort’ if self-contained accommodation is not available according to Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link.

But another national homelessness charity, Crisis, has urged the government to keep night shelters closed during the winter.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “Back in March, the government rightly decided that night shelters and hostels were not a safe environment for people during the pandemic.

A Bed Every Night aims to give homeless people food and somewhere safe to sleep
(Image: Joel Goodman)

“It’s completely unacceptable that this approach should now change as we go into winter when the threat remains the same.

“We must not force people to choose between freezing on the street or a shelter, when both needlessly put lives at risk.”

In Manchester, rough sleepers will be given a single room instead of the previously used ‘shelters and sit-up spaces’ in a bid to reduce Covid-19 transmission.

The council’s programme, which built on the government’s ‘Everybody In’ policy, saw more than 250 people helped off the streets and into hotels and more permanent accommodation.

This approach will continue until March next year using funding and beds from A Bed Every Night, the Greater Manchester-wide rough sleeping accommodation scheme started by mayor Andy Burnham.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Manchester council’s lead member on homelessness, welcomed the extra government funding having already asked for greater financial support.

But he said: “Although this cold weather funding is a good start, it does not go far enough.

“Helping people off the streets is a long and difficult process and it can’t be achieved through quick injections of cash.

“What we would like to see, and will continue to lobby for, is a programme of long-term funding that would let [Manchester] council address the root issues of homelessness.”

Manchester Evening News