Background to the report

On Thursday 26 March 2020, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government launched its ‘Everyone In’ campaign. Everyone In required local authorities to take urgent action to house rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping in order to protect public health and stop wider transmission of COVID-19. Central government policy responsibility for tackling homelessness sits with the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (the Department), while the delivery of services to support homeless people sits with local authorities.

Jump to downloads

Content and scope of the report

This investigation is part of a programme of work we are undertaking to support Parliament’s scrutiny of the government’s response to COVID-19. In this report we set out the steps taken by the Department in rehousing rough sleepers in England during the pandemic, focusing particularly on the steps taken at the outset of the pandemic; the information held by the Department on those at risk of rough sleeping; and subsequent steps that the Department has taken to provide long-term accommodation to those at risk of rough sleeping.

Our report primarily covers the period between March and November 2020. It is a ‘facts only’ account of the Department’s actions and is not a value-for-money evaluation. While we set out the spending by local authorities on rough sleeping in this report, we will cover the financial response of local authorities to COVID-19 as a whole in a value-for-money report due for publication later in 2021.

Read more about our work on the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In partnership with local government, and the voluntary and private sectors, the government acted swiftly to house rough sleepers and keep transmission rates low during the first wave. Despite this considerable achievement, the response raised key issues for government to address.

“For the first time, the scale of the rough sleeping population in England has been made clear, and it far exceeds the government’s previous estimates. Understanding the size of this population, and who needs specialist support, is essential to achieve its ambition to end rough sleeping.”

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO


Publication details

Press release

View press release (14 Jan 2021)

Latest reports