Local government is on ‘turbo-charge’ in its efforts to get the homeless off the streets amid the coronavirus crisis, the Prime Minister’s adviser on rough sleeping has said.
Dame Louise Casey has been tasked with removing all rough sleepers off the streets of the capital – the worst-hit part of the country – to limit the spread of COVID-19.
She paid tribute to the sector’s handling of the crisis and told The MJ: ‘Local government is working relentlessly.
'You can’t ask local government to do any more than it already is.’
Dame Louise said it was vital to get rough sleepers into accommodation where they could be isolated as they were ‘super-likely’ to have the virus, to have pre-existing health conditions and to spread the disease further.
She has been working to identify hotels, student accommodation and even office blocks to house rough sleepers and those in unsuitable homelessness shelters so they can be isolated.
However, Dame Louise warned that housing rough sleepers would only be the start, adding: ‘This is a really huge challenge to drug, alcohol and mental health services to wrap in.
'We are not creating a perfect solution.
'People are going to do the best they can on all fronts.’
Efforts to get people off the streets are being supported by a £3.2m emergency funding pot.
In a Parliamentary written answer, government whip Baroness Bloomfield said: ‘This is part of a £1.6bn fund allocated to local authorities to help them respond to coronavirus (COVID-19) pressures across all the services they deliver.
'This includes increasing support for the adult social care workforce and for services helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people.’
Chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, Maggie Brunjes, said this was a ‘crisis within a crisis that is being mirrored across Britain’.
She said Glasgow was converting empty properties into furnished flats and the Scottish Government was providing funding for hotel accommodation, adding: ‘We would like to see the UK government guarantee support for other local authorities taking whatever steps are necessary to keep people safe who are homeless at this very worrying time, regardless of their immigration status or other factors.’