Dozens of people have been pictured sleeping rough in one of London’s most affluent streets, as charities call for No 10 to find a long-term solution to help the homeless amid the pandemic.
At least 20 men and women were seen wrapped in blankets lying on cardboard and dumped mattress outside a Mercedes showroom in Park Lane, Westminster, last night.
A shopkeeper said he believed the group were mostly from Eastern Europe and sees them set up their makeshift beds each night at about 8.30pm – just metres from several of the UK’s most famous five-star hotels.
He said that the group were peaceful but was worried that the number of people sleeping rough in the street had ‘increased a lot’.
The shopkeeper told MailOnline: ‘I only see them at night, I don’t know many but there were a lot there yesterday. And in the morning I am left to clear up their mess.’
Almost 15,000 rough sleepers were put in emergency accommodation or hotels since the start of the UK’s coronavirus outbreak under the £3.2 million ‘Everyone In’ scheme.
Local councils were told to make sure all rough sleepers had somewhere safe to isolate. But most contracts were expected to expire at the end of June, raising concerns that many have had to, or will need to, go back onto the streets.
Charities have now urged the government to find a sustainable solution to help rough sleepers, calling for emergency legislation and more council funding.
Crisis told Metro.co.uk it is urging the government to continue to provide safe accommodation ‘regardless of immigration status or other arbitrary legal barriers’.
Chief Executive Jon Sparkes said: ‘No one should be forced to return to the streets and left exposed and a greater risk of coronavirus because they are unable to isolate or even wash their hands regularly.
‘We are calling on Government to adopt emergency homelessness legislation, backed by funding, that would guarantee all those who are homeless with temporary accommodation over the next twelve months’.
He said such legislation would also quickly protect renters from eviction if they have got into arrears as a result of the financial impact of the pandemic. His calls came as the eviction ban in England and Wales is set to be lifted in just three weeks’ time – after the housing secretary extended it by another month.
Charities warned last week that the nation is facing a wider crisis with 75,000 households identifying as homeless or at risk of becoming so before lockdown.
During lockdown, data revealed that rough sleeping rose sharply despite the government’s scheme, as more people had become homeless after losing jobs. Others could not get access to public funds – particularly foreign nationals – and many struggled after services they relied on shut down, reported The Guardian.
Meanwhile, hundreds of rough sleepers are believed to have been evicted from hotel rooms and back onto the streets due to antisocial behaviour, the data found.
Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint told Metro.co.uk that by ‘simply letting’ the Everyone In scheme end without intensive support, former rough sleepers will not have much hope of securing a tenancy.
Head of public affairs Paul Noblet said: ‘Housing rough sleepers in hotels was not a sustainable solution over the longer term but the very least these people deserve is an exit strategy from the government that affords those former rough sleepers who are working towards sustaining a tenancy the dignity of a chance to do so.
‘The government has two options, to support local councils to work on the successes of the Everybody In scheme or let thousands of vulnerable people fall through the cracks and end up back on the street.’
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