City councils must provide ‘safe and appropriate’ housing for everyone who sleeps rough | Roaming

Local authorities will need to provide “safe and appropriate” accommodation for the thousands of rough sleepers in England this winter, even when they have restricted eligibility due to immigration status, the government has confirmed.

A ministerial letter sent this week calls on councils to offer accommodation and a Covid vaccination to people currently sleeping rough – and clarifies that this includes those who live on the streets and have no recourse to public funds .

The move was hailed by the homeless charity Shelter, which said a number of asylum seekers were denied assistance by some authorities during the lockdown last year because ‘they were supposedly not eligible for homeless assistance.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the letter ‘finally’ clarified the law and gave the councils a clear mandate to provide shelter to all those sleeping rough during the current wave of Omicron infections and the cold. winter. A government program at the start of the pandemic was designed to stop sleeping on the streets while the virus was circulating.

“Despite the ‘Everyone In’ program helping thousands of people on the streets and definitely saving lives at the start of the pandemic, not everyone has been helped,” Neate said. “We know from our own services that overwhelming advice has been and continues to turn some people away.”

Earlier this year, a court ruled in favor of a destitute former asylum seeker, Timon Ncube, who was denied accommodation by Brighton and Hove City Council during the pandemic on the grounds that he failed was not eligible for homeless assistance. The court said the council was legally able to help him during a public health emergency.

Separately, new data mapping the extent of destitution among migrants during the pandemic revealed that thousands of people escaped the safety net provided by the Everyone program in the first 14 months of the pandemic – often because of the safety net provided by the Everyone program. ‘they were suspicious of the government and were afraid to ask for help.

The data was compiled by the No Accommodation Network (NACCOM) whose 138 frontline member organizations support asylum seekers, refugees and migrants without public resources across the UK.

Between April 2020 and June 2021, 2,771 people contacted NACCOM members over roaming issues, despite unprecedented levels of emergency statutory provisions during Covid-19.

A group of researchers from the NACCOM community examined the challenges facing homeless migrants during the pandemic. “You are struggling with the need for shelter, but you are afraid to ask for help because you don’t know who you can trust,” they wrote.

The study found that charities provided life-saving aid to people who experienced gaps in government support, including 1,886 without recourse to public funds, 829 who were denied asylum, and 564 with refugee status. refugee. Another 493 without recourse to public funds included migrants from the European Economic Area. NACCOM members provided 413,089 nights of accommodation during this period.

Bridget Young, Director of NACCOM, said: “No one should have to face homelessness and destitution at any time, but for thousands of people to struggle to access safe housing during the Covid-19 crisis , when there was emergency support in place, is truly shocking.

“While emergency government support for homeless people during Covid-19 was needed and welcomed, our data shows that people have always gone through the gaps due to their immigration status, and have been exposed at a much greater risk of harm from Covid-19 as a result. “

Ewan Roberts of Asylum Link in Merseyside, who helps homeless asylum seekers and others find accommodation, said some of the people they work with are too afraid to access traditional support.

“Evictions resumed in September and are continuing despite rising Covid infections,” Roberts said. “We had a client who called late yesterday in a real panic saying he was being kicked out: with the Christmas closure in place he will potentially be homeless on the streets and out of service General public”.

Lauren Scott, director of Refugees at Home which provides hosts to accommodate homeless asylum seekers, refugees and others, said she believes the hostile environment is a barrier for people with precarious immigration status seeking government support during the pandemic.

“You have to work to build relationships of trust. But it is difficult to establish these relationships while pushing for hostile environment policies.

A government spokesperson said: “The councils should exhaust all options available under the law to support people unable to access homeless legal assistance due to their immigration status. In addition to working with volunteer partners, this should also include the power to accommodate rough sleepers in a public emergency – for example if there is a risk to life.

“The Everyone program launched during the pandemic has helped 37,000 vulnerable people, including those outside the UK, and we are providing £ 2bn over the next three years and £ 800m this year to fight against sleep in the streets and homelessness. “

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