When the coronavirus forced countries into lockdown and confined people to their homes, governments had to confront an urgent question: How do stay-at-home orders apply to those without a home?
For Britain, the answer was simple: “Bring everyone in.” Within days of imposing its national lockdown on March 23, the British government told local authorities to shelter any person in need of accommodation. It was an extraordinary task—one requiring millions of pounds, not to mention the efforts of huge numbers of officials and charities. But it worked. Thousands of unhoused people were placed in vacant hotel rooms, student dormitories, and other forms of temporary housing. A goal the government had given itself years to accomplish was achieved much more quickly.