Rough sleepers facing “cliff edge”, says Redbridge Council

Redbridge Council is warning of a deadly “cliff edge” approaching for rough sleepers who are not eligible for support because of their immigration status.

Since the pandemic began the council says it has offered 389 people emergency accommodation through the ‘Everyone In’ scheme, a government policy of supporting all rough sleepers.

Almost half of those rough sleepers in Redbridge would not have been eligible for any support before the pandemic, because they have no recourse to public funds (NRPF), usually because they entered the country unlawfully or overstayed.

According to a homelessness report before Redbridge’s cabinet on January13, there were 77 NRPF rough sleepers who were being supported through Everyone In last November.

These people are often facing “torturously slow” legal battles with the Home Office over their immigration status, and have no guarantee of emergency accommodation from March this year.

The homelessness strategy report, brought to cabinet by Vanisha Solanki, the cabinet member for housing and homelessness, warns: “We will shortly face a cliff edge at the legal end of the pandemic where we lack the powers to support rough sleepers who are NRPF even with emergency accommodation that keeps them safe.

“This creates inevitable risks to life and limb for those going back to a life on the streets. 

“Without proper changes to the rules around NRPF we will continue to have people sleeping on our streets and as the evidence shows there will be deaths.

“The government has to respond quickly and demonstrate that it understands the consequences of not doing so.”

Presenting the report, Cllr Solanki added: “The council has supported this group to protect them from the pandemic, but cannot support them into long term housing solutions with the legal constraints that exist, we can only for now help them in emergency accommodation. 

“We will be looking to make the case to government about how they are assisted, otherwise there will be a return to the streets with the dire consequences that can then result for the individuals and the impact on the broader community.”

Explaining Redbridge’s wider homelessness strategy, the report says rough sleepers who were eligible for help have been “heavily supported” to accept offers of help, such as longer term supported accommodation in the borough.

Supported accommodation in the borough includes 18 spaces for high-needs people at Rydale Court, Ilford; 18 spaces at Jason Lee House; twelve spaces at Green Lane; nine studios at Green Lane; and 42 converted shipping containers at Malachi House in Ilford town centre.

Other outcomes for rough sleepers brought in since the pandemic have included private rented accommodation and being reunited with family or friends.

However, figures in the report show 66 people either refused, were evicted, or abandoned the emergency accommodation they had been given.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been approached for comment.

Cabinet member for housing and homelessness Vanisha Solanki

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter