Off the back of Everyone In, and before the vaccine roll out, there was a clear message from Government that communal shelters should be used as a last resort and this was mirrored in practice.
This year, the picture is a little murkier. Despite the increase in infections and hospitalisations, the directive to avoid the use of communal shelters is less strong and the intelligence we’ve gathered through our Sounding Board and Partnership Team suggests that across England there’s uncertainty and delayed planning as to how people sleeping rough, many of whom are clinically vulnerable, will be supported during the winter months.
Today we launch our refreshed SWEP and cold weather guidance to support areas in their planning this year. Incorporating new case studies from across the country, we encourage local authorities and their partners to continue seeking creative solutions for the provision of single occupancy accommodation as much as possible.
Not only are single rooms clinically safer and more humanising than shared spaces, feedback from people accessing emergency accommodation, collected for a review by Housing Justice, suggests that this is the preferred option. Manchester’s Emergency Accommodation Minimum Standards and accompanying film make a clear case as to why this is; people feel safer in their own rooms, something I’m sure we could all empathise with.
Local authorities have an important leadership role to play in bringing partners together to plan and implement emergency and extended winter provision, and there are many examples in our new guidance of local partnerships finding suitable solutions to prevent a return to how things were pre-pandemic.
However we aren’t naïve and recognise the significant challenges facing local authorities, and other organisations, to provide the number of bed spaces required within the resources that exist. We suggest:
- Letting our Partnership Managers know of areas who are considering communal shelters to they can offer support to explore different options
- Where communal provision is being considered, this should be done in conjunction with local authority homelessness and public health teams
- Take a look at the case studies in our refreshed guidance, as well as catching up on our September webinar featuring a range of speakers on planning for winter provision
- Given the likely clinical vulnerability of those accessing emergency and winter provision, ensure you have appropriate triage in place so that the most appropriate accommodation option is provided for those who are at serious risk of illness from COVID-19, and testing to reduce the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19 amongst those accessing it, staff and volunteers. Work with local vaccination services and public health teams to increase vaccine uptake in those using the provision, and staff and volunteers
We want to do all that we can to support the sector to build upon all the positive work of Everyone In so do get in touch to see how we can help.