Supporting rough sleepers through the coronavirus outbreak

Cllr Rebecca Rennison, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Finance, Housing Needs and Supply, explains how the Council is helping rough sleepers during the coronavirius pandemic.


Deputy Mayor Cllr Rebecca Rennison, Cabinet Member for Finance, Housing Needs and Supply
Rough sleepers are among those most vulnerable to the risks of coronavirus. From the outset we’ve done everything we can to find appropriate accommodation for everyone sleeping rough, or in a shelter, in Hackney – a challenge made all the more difficult because our usual communal emergency accommodation is unsuitable for a lockdown.

I’m proud of Hackney’s record on street homelessness. We’ve reversed the trend across London by cutting the number of people sleeping rough in Hackney over the last year, despite the impact of ten years of austerity and the continued housing crisis in the capital. Our No-First-Night-Out principles help stop those at risk of homelessness ever reaching the street, and our Greenhouse partnership helps vulnerable homeless people get not just a roof over their head, but wider support with things like healthcare and finances.

That’s why we were well placed to get rough sleepers off the streets as soon as the extent of the coronavirus pandemic became clear. We had already placed more than 50 rough sleepers in safe, self-contained accommodation even before the Government’s request last week.

This is an incredible achievement in a short time, and those housed include everyone in the Hackney Winter Night Shelter, the No Second Night Out hub on Mare Street, and around half of the people identified as rough sleeping in the last month. Every rough sleeper in Hackney has now been offered accommodation, regardless of their immigration status or their entitlement to public funds.

However, housing rough sleepers is a complex process involving reaching out, building trust and understanding each individual’s situation – be it trauma, addiction, mental ill health, or a combination of these. For these reasons there are still a small number of people who have yet to take up the offer of accommodation. We will continue to work with them, to help overcome any barriers they face to moving off the streets.

We also identify around 20 new rough sleepers each month, and – with coronavirus affecting people’s jobs and putting pressure on unstable households – this sadly may rise. If you see someone sleeping rough for the first time, please let us know using the StreetLink app so we can reach out and help them into accommodation as quickly as possible.

While we continue to find the right accommodation for all homeless people and assist those who need it to take it up, our focus is also giving these people the wrap around support they need to be able to sustain it – making sure they don’t have to return to the streets once the pandemic is over.

What we need from the Government is action and leadership, particularly around securing settled accommodation and lifting caps on housing payments. Actions speak louder than words –  we’ve taken action here in Hackney and will continue to do so for the duration of this crisis.
Deputy Mayor Cllr Rebecca Rennison, Cabinet Member for Finance, Housing Needs and Supply

How you can help

  • tell Street Link – if you’re concerned about someone rough sleeping and worried that services might not be already aware

  • contact us – if you or someone you know is at risk of homelessness

  • let your property – if you or someone you know has an unused, self-contained property that could be used as emergency accommodation by someone that needs it contact the Housing Supply team on 020 8356 4411 or housingsupply@hackney.gov.uk