Another national lockdown is imminent in England.
But it’s important to note that there are reasons to be hopeful: we know more about COVID-19 than ever before, testing capacity is in a far superior place to what it was last time, and from masks to the furlough scheme, there’s a sense that we do now know what works.
This should not be taken for granted. Take homelessness, for example — arguably one of the UK government’s most effective responses to the pandemic. We know how to protect rough sleepers from COVID-19: emergency accommodation. And seven months on from the launch of a scheme that gave shelter to thousands of people, pressure is mounting to repeat that success once more.
The “Everyone In” scheme helped 15,000 people sleeping rough find a secure place to live throughout March and April 2020, often in hotels with individual rooms to help people isolate safely.
According to University College London, it saved 266 lives.
On Nov. 5, another lockdown comes into force in England. Before that happens, organisations around the country are demanding clarity on what help will be available this time around.
Right now there has been no guidance on further support — either from Prime Minister Boris Johnson or Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing who previously claimed the “Everyone In” scheme helped 90% of rough sleepers off the streets.
“With a new lockdown imminent, the UK government must bring ‘Everyone In’ back in England with ring-fenced funding for local councils to provide COVID-safe accommodation for anyone experiencing or at risk of rough sleeping,” said Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, a homelessness charity.
Rough sleepers shouldn’t have to choose between cold and Covid this winter. If we are heading into Lockdown 2 the Government must guarantee funding for Everyone In 2 so that rough sleepers can be helped to safely self-isolate in hotels again. We need swift clarity about this.— Tom Copley (@tomcopley) October 31, 2020
It’s a critical time for rough sleepers who, as winter approaches, face the dual threat of rapidly rising COVID-19 cases and plummeting temperatures.
The Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of General Practitioners also called for the return of “Everyone In” on Oct. 8, highlighting to ministers that a study from New York showed the risk of death from COVID-19 was 61% higher for people in communal shelters than the rest of the population, with people often crowded together in cramped spaces.
Without the scheme in the coming months, many people sleeping rough will attempt to find relief from the cold in a shelter where the virus threat might be greater. It’s therefore vital, say campaigners, for the government to intervene to offer safety and security.
“Without urgent action from the government to keep homeless people off the streets this winter, lives will most certainly be lost,” said Prof. Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians.