An extra £82m in government funding is needed to end rough sleeping in the next three years, a new report has said.
The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping has called on the government to maintain the additional funding made available during the coronavirus pandemic if it hopes to meet its manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping by 2024.
The panel is calling for the government to continue its Everyone In scheme and for the £20 Universal Credit boost, introduced as a temporary measure last year, to be maintained.
Councils and charities predict a potential surge of people on the streets as the winter months approach.
The Everyone In initiative saw local authorities instructed at the start of the pandemic to provide emergency accommodation to rough sleepers, people living in shelters with shared sleeping arrangements, and those at risk of rough sleeping.
An estimated 37,000 people were provided with a COVID-secure place to stay under the scheme.
But councils have limited options for people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), are facing fewer rooms being available as hotels pick up business, fatigued frontline staff leaving the sector, and an increase in people being affected by the removal of the Universal Credit uplift.
The Kerslake Commission was set up to examine lessons from the health crisis emergency response, and its interim report found the momentum sparked by the government at the start of the pandemic “has clearly demonstrated that street homelessness can be ended”.
It has called on the government to treat rough sleeping as a “public health priority”.
Lord Kerslake said: “If we fail to learn the lessons of Everyone In, all the signs from the commission’s work are that the situation will get worse, not better, and homelessness and rough sleeping will increase.
“That would be an enormous lost opportunity for the government to deliver on its rough sleeping commitment, and a personal tragedy for those affected.
“We are at a pivotal moment. I fervently hope that the Government does the right thing and takes forward the recommendations in this interim report.”
In March, cross-party MPs from the Housing Committee said the scheme “by definition has finished” as it was no longer helping everyone in need of accommodation.
But the government insisted the scheme was ongoing and it was “misleading” to suggest otherwise.
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A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: “Our decisive action through the internationally recognised Everyone In scheme has protected thousands of rough sleepers throughout the pandemic.
“We’re building on that success with the backing of an unprecedented £750m investment this year – giving rough sleeping and health services the funding they need to help get people off the streets and into settled accommodation.”
The commission’s final report will be published in September.