Protecting rough sleepers during the second wave

Riverside’s John Glenton, Executive Director of Care and Support, reflects on Everybody In and how properly-funded emergency accommodation for people sleeping rough must be the priority going forward…

As we have been living with the impacts of Covid for almost nine months I think we sometimes forget that the Government and the civil service is facing a health and economic crisis on a scale that no-one has ever seen before.

This Government’s ’Everyone In’ programme made a significant impact early in the coronavirus crisis, successfully supporting more than 29,000 people sleeping rough in England into emergency accommodation and then helping two-thirds of those people to move into settled housing.

After nine long months of lockdown and restrictions the health crisis we are facing is arguably even more significant, with a new mutant strain of the virus which is more contagious.

Research led by University College London shows ‘Everyone In’ – which meant people affected by homelessness had their own personal, Covid-secure place to sleep – helped to prevent 21,092 infections, 1,164 hospital admissions, 338 ICU admissions and 266 deaths during the first lockdown.

Now we are tackling a more infectious strain of the virus it makes sense for the Government to relook at a similar approach. With the increased risks associated with freezing temperatures we need to protect those people experiencing rough sleeping

People affected by rough sleeping are at a greater risk from Covid-19 due to having underlying health issues.  So, we welcome the Government’s announcement that people sleeping rough will be vaccinated alongside other priority groups however, if these people do no not feel safe to come inside and access support it will be more difficult to put these plans into action.

If we enable people to access safe and secure accommodation we will be able to support them to register with a GP and access appropriate healthcare services.

The Government’s latest announcement of an additional £10m of funding is therefore very welcome but we need to understand from councils if this will be enough money to accommodate people safely.