Andy Burnham, has announced after a meeting of the Greater Manchester COVID-19 Emergency Committee, an urgent humanitarian response to house 1000 people in hotels and provide them with essential services to help them during the coronavirus crisis with £5m of funding to be used with immediate effect.
Fully 625 hotels rooms have been made available to house the city-region’s rough sleeping population and those in shared hostels to help protect them from the risks posed by coronavirus and allow them to self-isolate. A further 375 hotel rooms are being sourced in the next 48 hours.
Following government instruction to stay at home, the move to accommodate hundreds of homeless people in hotel rooms is a recognition of the vulnerability of many rough sleepers and homeless people in shared accommodation spaces, and their need for support and a safe place to stay at this difficult time.
Ending the need for rough sleeping in the city-region is one of Mayor Andy Burnham’s key priorities. Much progress has already been made with official figures identifying 151 people sleeping outdoors, a decrease of nearly 50% in just two years.
In part this has been achieved through the successful A Bed Every Night scheme which operates emergency accommodation in each of the 10 boroughs. However, with much of that accommodation reliant upon the use of shared spaces such as bedrooms and kitchens, an alternative solution has been sourced as an urgent priority.
Mayor Andy Burnham said: “I’m announcing extensive plans to support people sleeping rough and in shared temporary accommodation in our city-region as a matter of urgency – this is our humanitarian response at a time of a national public health crisis.
“The negative impact street homelessness can have on a person’s mental and physical health is well known, and that is before you take into account the very real risks posed by possibly catching coronavirus.
“We have moved swiftly to work with our 10 local authorities, NHS and the private and faith sectors to source enough accommodation in some of our city-region’s large hotels for everyone who needs it. We are assisting some people accommodated in A Bed Every Night into these rooms while others are being supported from the streets or from situations where they are experiencing an imminent risk of sleeping rough. We will provide essential services of food, access to medicines, targeted support and somewhere safe to stay during an incredibly challenging time for them.”
Across Greater Manchester, officials estimate roughly 1,000 individuals will require hotel rooms, including 720 who will have moved out of shared emergency accommodation and an estimated 280 who might be expected to slept rough over the 12 week period initially proposed for the scheme.
A number of former rough sleepers accommodated in hotels will be supplied with mobile phones to enable them to remain in contact with support workers. This also enable those support workers to practice their own essential social distancing. Adult social workers and health workers, will be re-deployed to support individuals in hotels.
There is a commitment under the new system to continue, as much as is practicable, to provide people with mental and physical health support. This will include, clinical psychologist mental health support, drug dependency support including prescription service and wellbeing support.
Further plans have also been revealed to cater for the new hotel population, with welfare packages to be sourced through the Greater Manchester Homeless Action Network, an umbrella organisation key to addressing homelessness and rough sleeping in the city-region. These packages will include dry food goods, basic food preparation and eating utensils and hygiene essentials such as sanitary and dental products.
Mobilisation is underway to ensure prepared meals will be delivered to hotel accommodation daily. This will utilise existing day centre and soup kitchens operating in the city-region, alongside restaurants who will no longer be opening their doors and express a willingness to participate.
Local authorities have identified taxi firms that they are able to call on to be used in the first instance to transport individuals to the hotel rooms. TfGM is supporting the procurement of a Greater Manchester-wide black cab contract that can transfer individuals, staff, and belongings consistently over an initial 12 week period.
Mayor Andy Burnham added: “I said when I was elected that I wanted to end the need for rough sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020 – this is helping to deliver on that, and I am determined to keep to my word in spite of this pandemic.
“Greater Manchester is a compassionate society – we don’t just walk on by. We have a moral and ethical duty to help those living vulnerable and dangerous lives on the streets, and I am proud of the package we have put in place. No-one should have to sleep rough, especially at this uncertain time, and here in Greater Manchester we are making sure no-one has to.”