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This is the moment to end homelessness in the UK—here’s how it should be done

Coronavirus has shown that the impossible can be possible. But the government needs to remember that effective policy can't just be about accommodation but also about holistic care

By Johannes Lenhard & Eana Meng  

A man wearing a mask walks past the belongings of a homeless person in a doorway at the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street in London, England, on March 28, 2020. Government ministers have urged local authorities to find accommodation for all rough sleepers by this weekend, with Louise Casey, homelessness tsar for the UK Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) declaring yesterday that the ministry was 'redoubling its efforts' to make sure everyone was 'inside and safe' amid fears that homeless people could become sick with coronavirus. The UK today began its first weekend under the covid-19 coronavirus lockdown conditions imposed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday evening, under which people can leave their homes only for buying essentials, exercising, providing care and, if unavoidable, to travel to and from work. UK deaths currently stand at 1,019, after 260 more were reported to have died over the past 24 hours. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto)

All homeless people in the UK were supposed to be offered accommodation by local councils according to government guidance published in March, which was extended in June. Compared to other European countries, this response to the ongoing pandemic was more generous than expected, despite budget concerns.

But it isn’t altogether surprising that there were still people left outside despite this offer. Many homeless people we have encountered in our research since 2011 struggle…

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