Local authorities urge the government to prevent a post-covid homeless world

Published: Monday, 4th May 2020

Cabinet members responsible for homelessness from across the West Midlands local authorities as well as the West Midlands Metro Mayor, have come together to write to Government.

A letter has been sent to Government to ask for additional support for the homeless during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. It sets out five key challenges for local authorities in supporting those who are homeless and demands a way forward to prevent rough sleepers from being pushed back on to the streets after the crisis ends.

Over the last month, local authorities have worked tirelessly to support as many people as possible to make the transition from rough sleeping to staying in accommodation. However, the scale of this challenge is unprecedented, with an original estimate of 115 people rough sleeping in the combined authority area.

To date, every known rough sleeper has been made an offer of accommodation, with Birmingham City Council alone housing over 50 people. However, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Homelessness Taskforce Members Advisory Group, along with Metro Mayor Andy Street, want to ensure that this opportunity is not lost.

Cllr Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods at Birmingham City Council and chair of the WMCA members advisory group said, “We need to recognise that this is a rare tipping point on the road to ending homelessness. Our outreach teams across the region have done a fantastic job in explaining to rough sleepers the impact of Coronavirus and supporting them into accommodation.

“We now need the support from Government to ensure that no one is dumped back on to the streets when the pandemic ends and that resource is available to keep some of our most vulnerable people on this positive pathway and helped into a healthier lifestyle.”

The letter outlines the regions approach to reducing the impact of COVID-19 on people facing homelessness. But, it also acknowledges the impact of Government decisions on the ability to sustain these efforts. In particular, concern has been raised around the early release of those in prison and the expected rise in the supported asylum population at a time where existing pressures on local housing, homelessness, health and welfare provisions are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 situation.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The impact of COVID-19 has been severe across the whole of the West Midlands, but perhaps those most vulnerable to the virus are the region’s rough sleepers.

“Local authorities have done a superb job in protect our most vulnerable and offering accommodation to every single rough sleeper in the region during this incredibly difficult period, but it is clear there are still some issues that we need to work through with Government.

“We also need to begin to look past the crisis and work with ministers on how we could use this unprecedented situation as an opportunity to keep rough sleepers off the streets and take a significant step forward in the fight against homelessness in the West Midlands.”

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Homelessness Taskforce Members Advisory Group is made of the seven local authorities: Birmingham City Council, Sandwell Council, Dudley Council, Wolverhampton Council, Coventry City Council, Walsall Council and Solihull Council.

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