Rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless will be helped to keep safe this winter through a package of support, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced today (13 October 2020). This will give local areas the tools and funding they need to protect people from life-threatening cold weather and the risks posed by coronavirus.

Today’s announcement includes:

  • A new £10 million Cold Weather Fund to support councils get rough sleepers off the streets during the winter by helping them to provide more self-contained accommodation.
  • An additional £2 million for faith and community groups to help them provide secure accommodation for rough sleepers.
  • Comprehensive guidance to the sector, produced with Public Health England, Homeless Link and Housing Justice to help shelters open more safely, where not doing so would endanger lives.

These measures will help councils build on their existing plans to protect people over winter which have been supported by the £266 million Next Step Accommodation Programme – the aim of which is to keep people safe and ensure that as few people as possible return to the streets.

Communities Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

“As we approach winter, we are focusing on the best way to protect rough sleepers from the cold weather and coronavirus.

“The funding and guidance I’m announcing today will mean that working with councils and community groups, some of the most vulnerable people in society are given support and a safe place to stay this winter.

“The government is spending over half a billion pounds to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone and working with our partners, some of the most vulnerable people in our society have been helped into accommodation or other support during the pandemic and we are accelerating plans for thousands of new homes.”

Kelly Tolhurst, Minister for Housing and Rough Sleeping said:

Winter is clearly a dangerous time for people who sleep rough.  These extra measures will help to protect this vulnerable group from life-threatening cold weather, as well as the risk of contracting COVID-19, and also provide them with support into move-on accommodation.

The work councils, providers, and the NHS has done since the start of the pandemic has saved lives and through this extra funding we will continue help them to rebuild their lives, part of our commitment to end rough sleeping for good.

Kathy Mohan from Housing Justice said:

Cold weather shelters in this country are predominantly staffed by volunteers and often operate on tiny budgets.  These are people motivated purely by the desire not to walk by on the other side of the street while someone is affected by homelessness in their community. During the first wave of the pandemic shelters reacted phenomenally, working around the clock until they were able to safely transfer guests to self-contained accommodation.

We are pleased the Night Shelter Operating Principles are here and more than 150 organisations who provided night shelters in the last year have the facts they need to make tough decisions on their operations this winter.

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, comments:

People should not be facing a choice between the cold streets or an unsafe night shelter. Traditional night shelters should only open as a last resort if self-contained accommodation is not a possibility.

We welcome the operating principles published today, which will help make shelters open as safely as possible if they do become a necessity. We ask that local areas adhere to these principles in order that people sleeping rough can be supported safely in line with COVID-19 guidance.

We welcome the new £2 million Transformation Fund, which we will be administering to provide funding to voluntary and community sector groups to transform spaces and make more self-contained emergency accommodation locations available. This funding will be essential to groups that usually operate on extremely tight budgets, enabling them to provide appropriate support for people sleeping rough over the winter.

During the pandemic, the government has worked closely with local authorities and charitable organisations  to offer vulnerable people safe accommodation and support. This year, the government has committed half a billion pounds for rough sleeping and homelessness. Allocations for 3,300 additional homes this year for rough sleepers across the country will also be announced soon, giving people a place to call their own, and to rebuild their lives away from the streets, part of the government’s commitment to end rough sleeping once and for all.

Public Health England, Homeless Link, Housing Justice, councils and representatives from the shelter sector have been involved in developing the shelter operating principles, so that if shelters do reopen, they can do so as safely as possible, providing communal facilities only if there is no other alternative.


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