Briefing: Urgent Question on preventing homelessness and protecting rough sleepers during the national lockdown

Summary

Shelter is the UK’s largest housing and homelessness charity. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to provide information, support and advice to thousands of people experiencing bad housing and homelessness.

In March, the government was swift in protecting rough sleepers via funding for the Everyone In scheme. This action doubtlessly saved lives. However, not everyone at risk of street homelessness was helped, and from the very beginning of lockdown we were contacted by people either sleeping rough or at risk of street homelessness who were refused emergency accommodation. This winter, we cannot allow the same to happen again and the Protect Programme must truly mean that everyone is supported into accommodation.

In addition, changes to the Immigration Rules published on 22 October will make rough sleeping grounds for refusing or cancelling someone’s right to remain in the UK. The new rules will punish people for being street homeless and take them further away from seeking support if they feel it would risk deportation. It could push people into exploitative situations (such as modern slavery) to avoid the street.

To protect rough sleepers from COVID-19 and from the cold this winter, the government must:

  • Provide unequivocal guidance to local housing authorities that everyone at risk of sleeping rough must be accommodated during the national lockdown. Everyone must mean everyone.
  • Deliver the necessary funding to every council to enable them to procure suitable accommodation (not night-shelter beds) and support services.
  • Reverse the changes to the Immigration Rules to prevent rough sleeping from being grounds for refusing someone’s right to remain in the UK.
  • Invest in a new generation of social housing and ensure housing benefit is fit for purpose, to tackle the root causes of homelessness.