The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) welcomes the Rough Sleeping COVID-19 Response Taskforce’s work, and the government’s commitment to provide 6,000 new supported homes for vulnerable rough sleepers taken off the streets during the pandemic.
The support rough sleepers will receive in their new home will help them to remain off the streets for good.
However, with only 3,300 of the new homes becoming available in the next 12 months, there must to be a comprehensive plan in place to ensure rough sleepers continue to be supported in the short term as lockdown is eased. We are still facing the very real possibility that rough sleepers currently being housed will be returned to the streets in a matter of weeks when funding runs out.
This would be illogical and a massive wasted opportunity. It would also be an unnecessary burden on the NHS when it is already stretched.
Rough sleepers tend to have poorer health than the general population, so they use NHS services at a higher rate. It’s estimated that rough sleepers cost the NHS over £350m per year, over £400m if the costs to drug and alcohol services are also included.
Stable housing for rough sleepers is one way to improve health outcomes which also helps reduce this pressure on the NHS. The vital short-term support for rough sleepers that is currently in place should be extended so people will continue to be housed until more permanent solutions, like the supported housing announced, become available.
The RCP also responded to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector.
A full version of our evidence is available to download below: