Local authorities across England, including Croydon Council, have been ordered by the government that they must close the hotels they used to house the homeless during the covid-19 pandemic, as a condition of the latest round of rough-sleeper funding.
Inside Croydon reported yesterday how the largest charity working with homeless people in the borough had recorded a 50 per cent year-on-year increase in demand for its services during the 2020 lockdown.
That spike in requests for help from the poor and vulnerable, as well as the homeless, came despite at least two town centre hotels being adapted for use for Croydon’s rough-sleepers, using funding from government to get them off the streets and reduce the risk of their becoming infected with covid or spreading the virus.
Inside Housing has since reported that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has written to councils stating that one of its “funding principles” was that councils should close their hotels and hostels by the end of June.
In a letter dated May 15, the Whitehall officials said, “Local move-on plans should end the use of hotels and other emergency accommodation by the end of [Quarter 1], unless otherwise agreed with MHCLG.”
The government’s Rough Sleeper Initiative saw grants awarded to 281 councils in May this year. Inside Housing says that the instructions from Secretary of State Robert Jenrick’s department mean “that all of these councils have been instructed to close their hotels unless an agreement is in place with the government”.
The letter said councils should “continue to do everything… to support people off the streets”, while also providing local authorities with a none-too-subtle reminder that all support given to non-UK nationals who are not eligible for homelessness assistance “is in compliance with the law” – which most will interpret as being zero support, in line with the Tory government’s “hostile environment” policy.
In May this year, the organisation representing all London’s boroughs, London Councils, issued a warning of a rapid increase in rough sleeping once emergency measures were withdrawn.
According to the government’s own figures, 37,000 rough sleepers were supported under the “Everyone In” scheme which began in March 2020, utilising hostels, student accommodation and whole hotels, many of which had to be vacated of paying customers at the start of lockdown.
At the time, this provision included those who would not normally be entitled to assistance under homelessness legislation. The chief executive of the charity Crisis, Jon Sparkes, described the government’s move as a “landmark moment”.
Since then, government aid has shifted in emphasis, towards providing housing that helps those under the “Everyone In” scheme from returning to sleeping rough. The Next Steps Accommodation Programme has provided £105million for shorter-term and interim accommodation and immediate support. Of this, £43.2million was allocated to London boroughs, including Croydon.
And it has also provided £161million to deliver 3,300 units of longer-term, move-on accommodation and support. Several larger housing associations based in London were provided with signifcant, multi-million-pound grants, and Croydon Council was allocated £728,810 under this funding stream.
By May this year, 11,000 people who would otherwise have been sleeping rough were still being housed under the Everyone In scheme.
According to Inside Housing, “Some of the individuals still housed in hotels by local authorities have no recourse to public funds (NRPF), which means they would not normally be eligible for homelessness support as a result of their immigration status.
“It is particularly difficult for councils to find move-on accommodation for this group of people as they are not eligible for Universal Credit or other forms of benefit.”
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