Mayors across England have called on the Government to seize a “once in a generation” opportunity to tackle rough sleeping after the coronavirus crisis.
The Labour leaders of Manchester, Liverpool, London, Sheffield and North Tyne regions have urged ministers to deliver a new funding package to keep thousands of homeless off the streets.
During the coronavirus pandemic more than 5,000 rough sleepers have been offered emergency accommodation, including in hotels.
The initial funding package for the ‘Everyone In’ scheme is due to run out within weeks.
But ministers have so far failed to commit to getting those rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation, saying it is the responsibility of already cash-strapped local authorities.
But although councils have received extra funding to help respond to the coronavirus crisis, they claim that it is not anywhere near enough.
Labour leader Keir Starmer joined the mayors to warn that a failure to act could mean thousands of rough sleepers ending up back on the streets.
In a joint statement, they said: “The Government has rightly committed to protecting vulnerable rough sleepers for the duration of the pandemic.
“However, the dedicated funding to house rough sleepers is set to run out and no clear plans or resources have been put in place by Government for what happens next.”
They added: “When this crisis is over, we cannot return to business as usual. If the Government is serious about its commitment to end rough sleeping, now is the time to act.”
Labour has also called for focused support to get those with no recourse to public funds permanently off the streets, as well as changes to Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit.
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Councils should be proud of their efforts to get rough sleepers off the street, backed by an unprecedented continued package of government support.
“We have been clear councils must continue to provide safe accommodation for those that need it and provided £3.2m at the start of the pandemic so they could take immediate action and help rough sleepers off the street.
“Our new rough sleeping taskforce – spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey – will work with councils across the country to ensure as many rough sleepers as possible can move into long-term, safe accommodation.”