Homeless people in Bristol will be moved out of hotels and into any accommodation the council can get their hands on, including student accommodation.
Bristol City Council has appealed to universities, private landlords and other actors in the housing sector to help provide housing for the homeless who were transferred to hotels during the Covid-19 crisis.
Many private landlords have already answered the call, and the University of Bristol has indicated that it is also ready to do its part.
It comes amid controversy over whether the government’s emergency program to get homeless people off the streets and into hotels has ended.
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The program covered people who are generally not eligible for public funding due to their immigration status, but it is not clear whether funding for this group will continue.
The council’s housing options manager, Paul Sylvester, told an intersectoral city housing council that 280 homeless people live in hotels and hostels across the city.
He said 50 of them were not eligible for public funding – ten are “destitute” asylum seekers and 40 are unemployed EU nationals.
“Clearly our goal now is to move people out of hotels,” Sylvester told the Bristol Homes and Communities Board on May 14.
“We are working with hotel providers, looking to expand access for some of them and scheduling when hotels want to take hotels back and let them go about their normal business.
“We don’t want to see anyone who leaves hotels returning to the streets and it is particularly difficult for people who have no recourse to public funds.
“I think there will be a great demand from universities and student union housing providers who could hopefully provide us with the interim accommodation we need while we seek to move everyone.”
University of Bristol chief financial officer Robert Kerse said the university could help as it expected some of its student accommodation to remain empty next year.
“What I have is largely closer to bed spaces than discrete accommodations,” he said.
Presenting the council’s One City Move-on project, Mr Sylvester asked for ideas from the Houses Council, which includes councilors and interest groups such as the university, tenants, landlords, charities for homeless people, housing associations and house building companies.
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The project aims to significantly reduce homelessness by increasing the supply of affordable housing and providing them with the support they need to maintain their rental and stay in that housing.
His goals are long term, but his first job is to find accommodation for the homeless living in a total of five hotels and hostels in Bristol.
Mr Sylvester said: “We know how many people need supported housing, we know how many people can be placed and will do well in the private sector, and we know how many people need support. more tailor-made solution. “
A “number” of homeless people had already abandoned their hotel rooms or had been evicted but were receiving support, he said.
Paul Ingerslev of St Mungo’s said the homeless charity’s relationship with a “very large hotel” which accommodated 100 people had been “sometimes difficult”, but things had gone better at two hostels of youth.
The number of homeless people in Bristol who were infected with Covid-19 remained low but was likely to rise if placed in unsuitable accommodation such as dormitories, he added.
Housing Cabinet Member Paul Smith said: “A lot of people in hotels will not be moving directly into their own apartment.
“Many of them will have to move into supported housing, and for that to happen, we need many people living in supported housing to be able to move into apartments and other independent housing. So it’s a lot more complex than just taking people out of hotels and putting them in an apartment somewhere.
Mr Sylvester said social housing was a priority for people receiving homeless housing in care, to create vacancies for those coming out of hotels.
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Lindy Morgan of the housing associations sector has warned that the pandemic will create a flood of homeless people on the streets of the city.
“This will only be the first wave, right,” she said. “More people can lose their homes and become homeless.
“We are only dealing with the people we know at the moment and we don’t know what that will look like in six months.”
The council explores “each particular avenue” to obtain the “radical change” in the offer of supported housing that it is looking for as part of its relocation project, he learned.
Options include doubling the number of private rentals to over 400 this year, buying homes, temporarily converting properties into “new gated developments” and exploring the use of modular housing.
Ian Knight of Homes England said: “I find it extraordinary that it has taken a pandemic to bring us to the position in society where we are able and willing to take action to ensure that people are not living on the streets. “