All homeless people in Halton will continue to receive temporary accommodation after the council agreed to maintain its “everyone in” policy.
The policy, introduced by the government in response to Covid-19, means everyone seeking help from council homelessness services should be accommodated regardless of whether they met the normal eligibility criteria.
But while the government has now started to encourage a return to normal service, Halton and other Liverpool City Region councils have decided to maintain the policy due to the impact of Tier 3 and the national lockdown.
A report presented to the council’s executive board on Thursday said returning to normal would be “inappropriate”.
The report said: “Across the country, some 15,000 homeless people were found at least temporary accommodation during the last lockdown; a recent article in The Lancet found that over 260 lives were saved as a result. “As winter approaches, it seems that the coronavirus will become more widespread, and it is those who are homeless, or facing potential homelessness, who will be amongst the most vulnerable to the illness.”
In Halton, 128 people had been accommodated under the scheme by October 19, with the council meeting the demand by bringing mothballed units at Grangeway Court back into use, starting a new scheme at Columba Court in Widnes. Around 14 people are also being accommodated in hotels at any one time.
The introduction of Tier 3 restrictions on October 14 further increased demand for places due to “sofa surfers” no longer being allowed to stay with others.
On Thursday, the council’s executive board agreed to continue to “everyone in” policy until at least the end of the year, at a cost of around £150,000.
The council’s report acknowledged that this policy was likely to cause “a considerable financial shortfall”, but added that this needed to be balanced against the impact of changing the policy.
The report said: “There are real risks that more people could become homeless and potentially may have to become rough sleepers; in itself this increases the risks to their health and the potential for them to become infected with Covid-19.
“The provision of a managed approach to this unique situation can potentially mitigate some of these health risks and reduce the potential for additional coronavirus infection in the borough.”