Charities have urged the Government to block-book hotel beds for homeless people to self-isolate from the coronavirus – a move that could affect dozens of Stroud families.

Doing so could “potentially save thousands of lives” throughout the country, say the Museum of Homelessness, as it warned shared emergency shelters could become “death traps”.

Between July and September last year, 44 households identified as homeless in Stroud, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows – a decrease of one on the same period in 2018.

While this was an a drop on the same period in 2018, across England the number of homeless households rose by 17% over the year.

Matt Downie, director of policy at Crisis, said homeless people are more susceptible to catching and spreading Covid-19, and are more vulnerable to the worst effects of it.

He added: “Not just because the advice is impossible if you don’t have anywhere to live, but also the underlying health needs of the homeless making them more vulnerable – you are three times more likely to have a respiratory illness.”

He said that it was now a “race against time” to ensure people experiencing homelessness have access to self-contained accommodation with private bathrooms.

The Government has already pledged £3.2 million in emergency support for rough sleepers during the outbreak – 11% of which (£368,000) is going to the South West.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society from coronavirus is this government’s top priority.

“The initial funding that I’ve announced will ensure councils are able to put emergency measures in place to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society to successfully self-isolate.”

However, charities are urging further action, with Crisis calling for an increase to housing benefits and quicker payment of Universal Credit to prevent more people from becoming homeless.

In addition to those identified as being homeless in Stroud, a further 51 households were threatened with homelessness within 56 days during the third quarter of 2019.

Across England, 34,940 people were identified as homeless, with a further 36,640 at risk.

Matt Turtle, co-founder of campaign group the Museum of Homelessness, said the number of people who risk becoming homeless as a result of the coronavirus is going to increase, as they become unable to buy food or pay their rent.

He said it was really difficult to keep people in shared spaces if anyone shows symptoms, and that finding a solution could “potentially save thousands of people’s lives”.

“If they are staying together in hostels it could literally be like a death trap to them because they are communal,” he added.

“Even if one of them has symptoms it can drag everyone else down – they are exposed to more and more of the virus.”

An MHCLG spokeswoman said the Homelessness Reduction Act had allowed people to access the support they need and that recent rough sleeping statistics showed those sleeping on the streets fell for the second year running.

She added: “We are providing £492 million to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness this year to stop people from becoming homeless and ensuring those that are can rebuild their lives with a roof over their head.”

A Stroud District Council spokesperson said: “Housing and homelessness advice is a key statutory service which we will continue to provide.

“The council will continue to offer housing advice and support to people threatened with being homeless, or who are at imminent risk of becoming homeless.

“We are also working hard as a countywide partnership to make sure with have identified all rough sleepers in the county to provide accommodation.

“Anyone with any concerns about someone who is rough sleeping should contact Streetlink or via its app.”