Conflicting advice from the Tory government is resulting in homeless people being at heightened risk of contracting coronavirus.
Central government issued a 48-hour warning to local councils to house all rough sleepers by Sunday of last week.
But Boris Johnson’s cabinet issued no extra funding to facilitate this.This will leave already vulnerable people in increasingly desperate situations.
Paul Atherton is a homeless man who until this week had been sleeping in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport.
He said rough sleepers in the airport had been evicted from the building, without any advice about where to go next.
“The likelihood of anyone being housed before the weekend is infinitesimally small,” he said.
But as the Tories issued press releases boasting about their unprecedented action about rough sleeping, other policies were turfing homeless people out on the street. Many homeless people are temporarily housed by local authorities in budget hotels and Bed and Breakfasts.
But the order to close hotels on Monday last week meant vulnerable families were evicted—some at just a few hours’ notice.
A council housing worker in Spelthorne, Surrey, tweeted, “Travelodge gave us four hours’ notice to find alternative accommodation for our clients.
“One was 84 years old. Luckily we managed to find other rooms by the skin of our teeth. This is only week one.”
Travelodge bosses blamed their decision on “government guidance”, despite guidelines saying that hotels housing homeless families should remain open.
Those currently homeless aren’t the only ones risking evictions, as Tory policy doesn’t go far enough to protect private renters.
Robert Jenrick, Tory housing minister, has said the new Coronavirus Bill includes a “complete ban” on evictions for private renters while the pandemic is ongoing.
But the new legislation actually just bans evictions where a notice period is less than three months.
And the bill also doesn’t protect around 20,000 people who have eviction cases currently going through the legal process.
But after public pressure Jenrick said all eviction cases could be suspended for at least three months