A Tory MP and minister for rough sleeping has been mocked for suggesting that local councils should try and get homeless people to move in with family and friends during the coronavirus crisis, reports the Liverpool Echo.
The minister, Luke Hall, has written to all councils in England as pressure to find alternative accommodation for rough sleepers during the crisis. In the letter, seen by the Liverpool Echo, Mr Hall urged local authorities to find alternative accommodation for the thousands of rough sleepers who were given emergency accommodation under the ‘Everyone In’ scheme.
Advising councils on what they could do next, the minister wrote: “In terms of move-on accommodation, all options need to be considered. We ask that you seek to encourage people, where appropriate and possible, to return to friends and family.”
The comments have drawn widespread criticism for appearing to show a lack of knowledge about the personal circumstances of rough sleepers. Liverpool’s Cabinet Member for Health, Cllr Paul Brant said: “Rough sleepers end up on streets for multiple different reasons – as victims of domestic abuse; mental breakdowns; eviction from debt. None are on the streets because they had accommodation options from friends/family available and forgot to ask.”
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire also slammed the letter. She said: “This half-baked suggestion shows that this Government is already rowing back from that promise. These comments smack of incompetence. Luke Hall has shown a woeful lack of understanding about the complex reasons why so many people sleep rough in this country. If rough sleepers were able to return to their friends and family, they would not be sleeping rough.”
“They need somewhere safe to live and the support to make a go of it. The Government should be working with councils to fulfil its commitment to end rough sleeping, not washing its hands of the responsibility to house the homeless.”
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman insisted people would return to friends or family “only where appropriate and possible”. He added: “Our new rough sleeping taskforce has one overriding objective: to ensure as many people as possible who have been brought in off the streets in this pandemic do not return to sleeping rough.