Ministers accused of putting lives at risk with plans to reopen homeless shelters

£12m funding announcement also criticised  

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Tuesday 13 October 2020 14:16 BST
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick (PA)

Ministers have been accused of putting lives at risk with their plans for rough sleepers this winter.

Homelessness charity Crisis reacted angrily to an announcement that some night shelters, which were closed when the coronavirus crisis began earlier this year, would  reopen.

The organisation warned that people must not be forced to choose between “freezing on the street or a shelter, when both needlessly put lives at risk”.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said some shelters should reopen to help deal with rough sleeping and homelessness but "only as a last resort".

Ministers have also announced an extra £12 million of funding this winter, split between councils and charities.

But the chief executive of Crisis Jon Sparkes said: “With temperatures dropping and coronavirus cases on the rise, this funding falls short of the bold action we need to keep people sleeping on our streets safe this winter.

“Back in March, the government rightly decided that night shelters and hostels were not a safe environment for people during the pandemic. It’s completely unacceptable that this approach should now change as we go into winter when the threat remains the same. We must not force people to choose between freezing on the street or a shelter, when both needlessly put lives at risk."

He added: “We urgently need the government to see sense on this matter and keep winter night shelters closed. They must instead provide councils with the crucial funding they need to provide everyone forced to sleep rough with safe, self-contained accommodation, as they did in March. Anything but this is risking lives.”

Last week Crisis, as well as 16 other organisations, including the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners, called on Boris Johnson to give everyone sleeping rough safe, self-contained accommodation to protect them from contracting Covid-19.

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