Hostels get cash to be social-distancing friendly


London homelessness hostels and women’s refuges will get cash to make their facilities safe for residents during the coronavirus pandemic, Sadiq Khan has announced.

Not all emergency housing in the capital is suitable for social distancing  – a recent survey of London hostels suggests one in 25 beds is in a shared room, and half of residents share bathrooms.

The Mayor has now promised £40 million so hostels can remodel their spaces or build new rooms to help slow the spread of Covid-19.

More than 1,300 rough sleepers are currently living in hotels across the city, to protect them from the virus – some were previously sleeping on the streets, but others were living in hostels with shared facilities.

The rooms are being paid for with £9.5 million of emergency Government funding, with an extra £1 million topped up by the Mayor.

Mr Khan has said every rough sleeper currently in a hotel will be offered a way out of homelessness – not forced back onto the streets.

But charities have warned of the lack of guarantees from government.

Dr Hugh Milroy, chief executive of homelessness charity Veterans Aid, predicted “significant problems” if there isn’t cash to help people who are already sleeping rough – as well as those made homeless by the virus.

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“All parties must use the crisis as an opportunity to build a future that enables us to permanently rid the streets of the scourge of homelessness,” he said.

On Friday, London Councils called for “urgent clarity” from the Government on next steps  for rough sleepers, amid claims that emergency funding is to be cut.

A leaked report, seen by the Manchester Evening News, claims ministers have “drawn a line” under the ‘Everyone In’ policy – which gave councils cash to house more than 5,000 rough sleepers at the peak of the virus.

The Government has denied claims that rough sleepers will be turfed out, with a spokesperson saying such reports are “simply wrong and misleading”.

But the Mayor said London’s most vulnerable residents “need our support at this time more than ever”.

The Government must provide “ongoing funding and support” to make sure everyone currently housed during the crisis can be moved to longterm accommodation when hotels reopen, he said.

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