Extra £5 million to relaunch rough sleeping scheme

Nearly £5 million will be spent relaunching a scheme helping Greater Manchester's rough sleepers off the streets to provide safer accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 3,000 people have been helped into emergency housing through A Bed Every Night (ABEN) since it was launched by mayor Andy Burnham in 2018.

But since the pandemic was declared in March regional leaders have focused instead on getting everyone off the street and into hotels as part of the government’s ‘Everyone In’ policy.

Mr Burnham now plans to rebuild ABEN’s accommodation from July to operate in ‘Covid-safe’ conditions through infection control, while also easing the pressure on hotels.

The extra investment agreed by leaders on Friday (May 29) will increase bed capacity to accommodate 445 households – including couples – seeking homelessness assistance.

A further 50 places will be women-only and reserved for those experiencing trauma, while a new space for those who are LGBT+ will be available for up to six people at any time.

“This is about creating Covid-safe accommodation for people sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough in Greater Manchester from July,” said Mr Burnham. 

“That will mean commissioning slightly differently from our providers and working with them to change the layout of some of our locations to ensure the safety of people and the social distancing that will be required.”

Mr Burnham said that while Greater Manchester authorities had ‘enthusiastically’ supported Everyone In, there are question marks over the government’s willingness to continue funding them to support rough sleepers.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced plans to provide 6,000 homes to rough sleepers accommodated during the lockdown, which have been welcomed by local leaders.

But no such support will be offered to those who were sleeping rough before the lockdown, which still concerns Mr Burnham and Salford mayor Paul Dennett.

Both have called for greater funding and radical changes to controversial policies such as the freeze on Local Housing Allowance, no recourse to public funds and no-fault evictions, 

Mr Dennett said: “I welcome the secretary of state’s 6,000 homes but in terms of demand it’s a drop in the ocean.

“This is about a broader agenda of prevention as well as tackling homelessness and rough sleeping as it presents itself.”

Across Greater Manchester there are 100,000 applications on housing waiting lists, including 30,000 in ‘urgent need’.

Mr Dennett also said that more than 95,000 homes bought through the right-to-buy scheme since 1980 have not yet been replaced.

He added: “I am really concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on the housing market but also the housing crisis.

“I fear the future may be more presentations to our housing teams in local authorities.”

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