Homeless people given refuge in hotels since the beginning of lockdown now face the prospect of returning to the streets.

During the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, Stevenage Borough Council provided emergency accommodation for the town’s rough sleepers, and those at risk of rough sleeping, so they could self-isolate safely.

The local authority has spent more than £500,000 on block bookings for 48 homeless households at Stevenage’s Holiday Inn Express, and a separate hotel in Stansted – only marginally offset by a £11.5k government grant.

When the government asked councils to move all rough sleepers out of hotels by June 11, the borough council asked for an extension, but has remained under pressure to make alternative arrangements to this expensive short-term accommodation solution, especially given hotels have been able to reopen to the public since July 4.

A spokesman for Stevenage Borough Council said: “So far, 15 clients who were originally rough sleeping and were provided with accommodation by the council during the pandemic have been helped into their own homes in the private rented sector.

“More new tenancies in the private rented sector will be organised in the coming weeks.

“All new tenants will be supported by the council housing team to sustain their new tenancies.

“Some 26 clients who were rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping during the pandemic will be transferred from the hotel to our own emergency accommodation.

“The council is working to provide additional supported provisions to address the needs of those placed, in an attempt to reduce the prospect of them returning to the streets.”

Last year, Stevenage Borough Council published a five-year strategy aimed at preventing homelessness and eradicating rough sleeping.

The council’s four key priorities within this strategy are housing development, provision of temporary accommodation, support for homeless households, and prevention and relief of homelessness.

The council says: “Our vision is to work cooperatively to prevent and reduce homelessness, and end the need for anyone to sleep rough in Stevenage.”