The government has published new operating principles to support the safe opening of night shelters for homeless people this winter. Funding has also been announced to help local authorities provide more self-contained accommodation to avoid the use of shelters. The self-contained accommodation may be from housing associations and the new principles encourage extensive partnership working.
The operating principles aim to support local authorities and housing/shelter providers to mitigate the risks of coronavirus transmission in night shelters. The principles don’t endorse the opening of shelters where local partners have agreed that they are not necessary. Providers may need to take additional measures if there are special measures in place for the local area.
Separate guidance is available for hostel accommodation with individual self-contained rooms. The guidance for Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) sits outside of these operating principles, but areas should include these operating principles in their general winter provision planning.
The principles state that decisions to reopen shelters must be balanced by a coronavirus risk assessment and shelters should only be used as a last resort when no other options are available.
The principles include:
The principles state that night shelters must have in place a number of Standard Operating Procedures for assessments, referrals and outbreaks before a shelter can open.
The principles recommend joint working between a number of different bodies:
£10m will be allocated to the Cold Weather Fund to support councils get rough sleepers off the streets during the winter by helping them to provide more self-contained accommodation than usual. An additional £2m for faith and community groups aims to help them provide self-contained emergency accommodation for rough sleepers and will be administered by Homeless Link.
The Cold Weather Fund was launched in 2018 to enhance accommodation provision such as access to the private rented sector, provide space in existing supported housing projects and fund more emergency accommodation for rough sleepers through the winter.
The allocations of long-term Next Steps Accommodation Funding are also expected soon.