Ensure no one spends winter on streets, says Labour

Labour is calling on the government to commit that no one will spend this winter on the streets, as fears mount there will be thousands fewer beds available.

With many night shelters closed because of coronavirus restrictions, Labour is launching a campaign to ensure everyone has a safe, Covid-secure place to stay this winter.

Research by charity HomelessLink found one third of homeless organisations and local authorities expect to see a decrease in capacity this winter. Other frontline charities have told Labour that rough sleepers are facing their worst winter yet. Testimony from organisations offering emergency beds – usually in church halls, community centres and similar buildings – includes:

The opposition party is warning that charities are struggling with less than half the usual number of volunteers this year, reducing the help they can offer rough sleepers. Additionally, concerns that the government’s threats to deport some foreign nationals who are sleeping rough could make it harder to help people who need support, as they will be less likely to seek or accept assistance

While many rough sleepers were given emergency accommodation during the spring lockdown, recent data suggests that more people are again sleeping on the streets. The number of new rough sleepers between April and June in London was up almost 80 per cent on the previous year.

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “Even before the crisis, rough sleeping was a shameful sign of government failure. This winter, without the last resort of night shelters, rough sleeping is more desperate than ever. The government promised to end rough sleeping for good – it must ensure everyone has a safe, Covid-secure place to stay this winter.”