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The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in Spring 2020 prompted an unprecedented public health response from the UK Government, local authorities and the voluntary sector to protect the vulnerable rough sleeping population.

The Everyone In initiative

On 26 March 2020, the Government asked local authorities in England to “help make sure we get everyone in”, including those who would not normally be entitled to assistance under homelessness legislation.

In response, local authorities across the country sought to ensure that people sleeping rough and in accommodation where it was difficult to self-isolate (such as shelters and assessment centres) were safely accommodated to protect them, and the wider public, from the risks of Covid-19. This was an enormous challenge for local authorities, who block-booked hotel rooms, secured other en-suite accommodation (eg B&Bs, student accommodation, holiday rentals etc) and worked with partners to ensure that those accommodated had the food, medical care and support they required.

The Government subsequently set up a rough sleeping taskforce, spearheaded by Dame Louise (now Baroness) Casey, to lead the next phase of the Government’s support for rough sleepers. The taskforce has worked with local authorities and other partners to try to ensure those accommodated through Everyone In are helped into longer-term accommodation and as few people as possible return to life on the streets.

Throughout the pandemic the Government has made numerous announcements of additional short-term funding for local authorities and the voluntary sector to support rough sleepers. In total over £700 million was provided in 2020/21 and £750 million in 2021/22 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. The Government has also published and regularly updated coronavirus guidance for the sector.

Impact of measures to support rough sleepers

The Government’s Everyone In initiative has been universally credited with protecting rough sleepers and saving lives during the Covid-19 emergency.

By January 2021, 11,263 people were in emergency accommodation and 26,167 people had moved on into settled accommodation (such as social housing or the private rental sector) or supported housing.

According to Government statistics, there were an estimated 2,688 rough sleepers on a single night in autumn 2020, representing a significant fall of 37% from the previous year (although 52 % higher than the number recorded in 2010). However, Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) data showed a slight (3%) increase in the number of people seen rough sleeping in London from 10,726 in 2019/20 to 11,018 in 2020/21.

Stakeholders have identified a range of positive impacts from the Everyone In initiative, in particular, the opportunity to engage with and support many people who had previously been hard to reach and increased partnership working between local authorities, health bodies and the voluntary sector.


The Government’s emergency support for rough sleepers during the coronavirus pandemic has been the subject of inquiries by both the Public Accounts Committee and the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee. It has also been scrutinised by the independent Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping.

Stakeholders have urged the Government to build on the success of Everyone In and address a range of ongoing issues, including the need for:

  • long-term and sustainable homelessness funding;
  • more support for those who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF) because of their immigration status;
  • affordable move-on accommodation for rough sleepers; and
  • clarity on the ongoing status of the Everyone In scheme, to ensure consistency in local authority decisions on homelessness assistance.

Furthermore, there is a concern that, without further action to address the underlying causes of homelessness, levels of homelessness may surge as the Government’s temporary coronavirus housing, welfare and employment support measures come to an end.

The sector has called for an urgent review of the Government’s 2018 rough sleeping strategy, setting out how it intends to achieve its objective to end rough sleeping by 2024.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Housing policy is a devolved area. The paper briefly outlines the key measures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to protect rough sleepers during the Covid-19 emergency.

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