As the coronavirus began to spread in the UK last year, the government asked local authorities to help make sure rough-sleepers in England would be offered a place to live to keep them away from the risk of infection. What results, one year on?

First published in February 2021.

In March 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic began to take a hold of the UK, the government asked local authorities to “help make sure we get everyone in”. This referred to people sleeping rough on the streets of England – including those who would not usually be entitled to assistance under homelessness legislation – and the need to afford them an environment in which they could live with a lower risk of infection.

The extent of the issue was described in a recent government briefing paper: “Rough sleepers are vulnerable to coronavirus (Covid-19); they are more likely to have underlying health conditions than the wider population and to face difficulties in following public health advice on self-isolation, social distancing and hygiene. They can also face barriers in accessing public health information and healthcare. Shared facilities used by rough sleepers – such as day centres, hostels and night shelters – increase the risk of transmission of the virus.”

In response to the call to action, local authorities attempted to ensure “people sleeping rough and in accommodation where it was difficult to self-isolate (such as shelters and assessment centres) were safely accommodated to protect them, and the wider public, from the risks of Covid-19”. Measures included “block-booking hotel rooms, securing other en-suite accommodation (B&Bs, student accommodation, holiday rentals etc) and worked with partners to ensure that those accommodated had the food, medical care and support they required.”

As the latest figures show, as of January 2021, 11,263 people ordinarily sleeping rough (or at risk of doing so) were being provided emergency accommodation as a direct result of the initiative. Since last March, a total of 26,167 people have been moved on into settled accommodation or supported housing.

In 2019, the government estimated that the number of people sleeping rough in England was 4,266. In the most recent ‘single night count’, that figure had fallen to just 1,461.

Figures related to rough sleeping in England in January 2021 and the effects of a government initiative
to reduce the number during the pandemic. |

As suggested by the volume of rough sleepers being aided by the ‘everyone in’ efforts, this is a notoriously conservative estimate. Nevertheless, it gives an indication of the degree to which the initiative has been effective. 

Going Further:

PMP News reporting

[This piece was first published in Statista & written by Martin Armstrong, Data Journalist at Statista.]

(Cover: Pixabay. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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