Greater Manchester has gone ahead with an “urgent humanitarian response” to house 1,000 homeless in hotels and provide them with essential services through the Coronavirus crisis – backed by £5m in funding with immediate effect.
A meeting of the Greater Manchester COVID-19 Emergency Committee cleared over 600 hotel rooms as available to house the city-region’s rough sleepers and those in shared hostels.
Another 375 hotel rooms are being sourced in the next 48 hours.
“This is our humanitarian response at a time of a national public health crisis,” said Burnham.
“We have moved swiftly to work with our 10 local authorities, NHS, and the private and faith sectors to source enough accommodation in some of our city-region’s large hotels for everyone who needs it.”
He continued: “We are assisting some people accommodated in A Bed Every Night into these rooms while others are being supported from the streets or from situations where they are experiencing an imminent risk of sleeping rough.
“We will provide essential services of food, access to medicines, targeted support, and somewhere safe to stay during an incredibly challenging time for them,” he said.
Across Greater Manchester, officials estimate roughly 1,000 individuals will require hotel rooms, including 720 who will have moved out of shared emergency accommodation and an estimated 280 who might be expected to sleep rough over the 12-week period initially proposed for the scheme.
A number of former rough sleepers accommodated in hotels will be supplied with mobile phones to enable them to remain in contact with support workers – also enabling those support workers to practise their own essential social distancing.
Adult social workers and health workers will be re-deployed to support individuals in hotels.
There is a commitment under the new system to continue, as much as is practicable, to provide people with mental and physical health support, including clinical psychologist mental health support and drug dependency support (such as prescription service and wellbeing).
Further plans have also been revealed to cater for the new hotel population, with welfare packages to be sourced through the Greater Manchester Homeless Action Network, an umbrella organisation key to addressing homelessness and rough sleeping in the city-region.
These packages will include dry-food goods, basic food preparation and eating utensils, and hygiene essentials such as sanitary and dental products.
Mobilisation is underway to ensure prepared meals will be delivered to hotel accommodation daily, utilising existing day centre and soup kitchens operating in the city-region, alongside restaurants that will no longer be opening their doors and express a willingness to participate.
Councils have identified taxi firms that they are able to be used in the first instance to transport individuals to the hotel rooms, with Transport for Greater Manchester supporting the procurement of a city-region-wide black-cab contract that can transfer individuals, staff, and belongings consistently over an initial 12-week period.
Ending the need for rough sleeping in the city-region is one of Burnham’s key priorities, and much progress has already been made, with official figures identifying 151 people sleeping outdoors – down nearly 50% in just two years.
In part, this has been achieved through the successful A Bed Every Night scheme, which operates emergency accommodation in each of the 10 boroughs.
However, with much of that accommodation reliant upon the use of shared spaces such as bedrooms and kitchens, an alternative solution has been sourced as an urgent priority.
“I said when I was elected that I wanted to end the need for rough sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020 – this is helping to deliver on that, and I am determined to keep to my word in spite of this pandemic,” said Burnham.
“Greater Manchester is a compassionate society – we don’t just walk on by.
“We have a moral and ethical duty to help those living vulnerable and dangerous lives on the streets, and I am proud of the package we have put in place.
“No one should have to sleep rough, especially at this uncertain time, and here in Greater Manchester we are making sure no one has to,” he said.