Council announces winter action plan as part of commitment to end rough sleeping

10 December 2020

Southwark Council has committed to end rough sleeping. At this time of year, as temperatures drop and more people become vulnerable to homelessness, the council is redoubling its efforts to support people who are sleeping rough including through the provision of COVID-safe emergency accommodation.

Prevention has always been at the heart of Southwark Council’s approach to tackling homelessness, trailblazing the Homelessness Reduction Act from before it came into law, and ensuring that people who are vulnerable to losing their home have the right support in place before they hit crisis point. But some still require accommodation. During the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government launched Everyone In, to get those sleeping on the streets inside, and safe. This was an incredible effort, but the approach has not been reinstated by the Government this winter. Funding has been announced through the ‘Protect Programme’ and whilst welcome, this will not be enough to meet need over the coming months.

Cllr Helen Dennis, cabinet member for social support and homelessness, said: “In the absence of ‘Everyone In 2’, Southwark Council has had to develop its own winter action plan and partnerships to support rough sleepers, including those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). Since the start of the pandemic, we have helped 710 rough sleepers to find a settled home and we remain committed to those with NRPF who are still in emergency accommodation and require resolution on their immigration cases.

“But we are seeing a big rise in homelessness applications and people are sleeping on our streets for the first time, often a result of illegal evictions. Our priority is to keep people safe at this time, but the Government will need to up its game and get serious about addressing the root causes of this homelessness crisis. In particular, it should rethink plans to freeze the Local Housing Allowance and its punitive approach to those with NRPF must change, including rules that allow for the deportation of rough sleepers.”

Core to the council’s winter action plan is the decision to reject communal night-shelters this year in favour of self-contained rooms. Working in partnership with the Robes project, the council has procured 35 self-contained rooms for homeless people, including 15 for those with NRPF. Robes is also providing wider support packages. In addition, the council has also secured hotel accommodation that can be used for people in the event of severe weather when they are referred from the council’s outreach partners St. Mungo’s and Thames Reach.

Cllr Dennis continues: “The pandemic has added an extra dynamic to keeping people safe this winter. Rough sleepers are more vulnerable to Covid-19 in shared shelters during cold weather, and they deserve the same protection that social distancing offers to others in their own homes. It is right that we offer them self-contained accommodation.”

Throughout this winter, the council will be working hard to keep people off the streets and in secure accommodation, protecting them from both the elements and the virus as much as possible. The council works with Streetlink London- if residents are worried that someone is sleeping rough, they can report it here: https://www.streetlink.org.uk/

Page last updated: 10 December 2020