- Posted by: Canterbury Labour
- Category: Latest News
Last Thursday, Canterbury City Council chose not to commit to providing a commitment to rough sleepers that those housed under the government’s ‘Everyone In’ programme during COVID-19 would be guaranteed accommodation going forward. Here’s why.
Fifteen years of working in homelessness services and I have met many people let down by the state. People who have found themselves homeless because of benefits not provided in time, people have been lied to by people in authority and people who believe that the council won’t help when they can get away with it.
That is why one of the ‘silver linings’ of this whole COVID-19 pandemic has been the decision by the government to provide accommodation to all rough sleepers during the lockdown – regardless of history, character or priority need. The ‘Everyone In’ programme has seen over 5,500 housed across England and over 50 accommodated in Canterbury through an agreement with the Canterbury Travelodge. It told people historically excluded from supported accommodation that they we worthy of help, support and in many cases made positive choices to engage with services.
Unfortunately news that the funding for Everyone In has left many in the homeless sector worried that the ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to end rough sleeping by dealing with our most entrenched characters will be lost.
Whilst Kier Starmer has called on the government to not force any rough sleeper back onto the streets, the government has failed to give a cast iron guarantee that this won’t happen. In announcing that funding already committed in their 4 year rough sleeping strategy will be brought forward, they have provided some additional funds but very few answers.
In Canterbury the city council’s officers are planning to utilise the £1m allocated to them in last year for a rough sleepers accommodation hub to provide accommodation when the arrangement with the Travelodge ends. However they have also acknowledged that they need to get government agreement to ‘reprofile’ the spend in this way and that a suitable site has yet to be found
Responding to the plans Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing and homelessness charity Shelter, said : “We cannot allow all the progress made or that safety net to be quietly stripped back now with councils left to pick up the pieces on their own.”
In passing the amended budget for this year Labour raised an amendment committing the council to guarantee that funds would be available to house rough sleepers leaving the Travelodge – offering a clear promise to people housed there that they would be taken care of. The decision was supported by the Liberal Democrats as a means of guaranteeing a return on the some £168,000 the council have invested in this scheme but dismissed by Conservative Councillor Ben Fitter Harding as cutting a ‘blank cheque’ to solve the problem. However councils in Cornwall and Northampton have made this gesture and the review of the budget in September would have provided ample opportunity to ensure funds don’t over run.
People living day to day under the care of the council deserve our honesty and best efforts to guarantee them everything they need to rebuild there lives. They are people who have been let down by the state, it is a shame that the council have chosen to potentially let them down again.