EMPTY bed and breakfasts have been used to house most of the 100 rough sleepers in the BCP Council area.

It said there had been a “radical shift” on the issue in recent weeks with increased risks from coronavirus prompting many people to accept offers of accommodation.

About half a dozen have refused but the council said it had stepped up efforts to support them and find more acceptable housing.

Government funding to local authorities has been increased in recent weeks and a drop in visitors to the area has resulted in an increase in the amount of accommodation at bed and breakfasts.

Cabinet member for housing, councillor Kieron Wilson, said the council had put in an “unprecedented” amount of work in the area.

“We are doing all we can to support those people who are sleeping rough and who are particularly vulnerable at this time,” he said.

“With help from our partners we will be working closely with those who’ve been housed to ensure they get the additional help and support they need and we will be using this time to work with them to support them to move on in to longer-term accommodation if possible.”

About 100 rough sleepers have been given somewhere to live in recent weeks and council leader Vikki Slade said there were only “six or seven” who had not accepted its offers.

She said concerns about the dangers of the coronavirus and a fall in visitors to town centres, and subsequently income for rough sleepers, meant many people who had previously refused housing had now not.

With support from Dorset Police, a block of public toilets has been left open for their use while the remainder have been closed.

Andrew Teale, outreach manager at St Mungo’s, which runs the council’s support service, said they were working “tirelessly” to continue to support rough sleepers.

“This is an extremely difficult time for our clients, who are worried and anxious about everything that is happening,” he said. “Our team have responded heroically, making sure everyone has clear information, somewhere safe to stay and continued support once they are in self-isolation.”

The council has said it will continue to work with rough sleepers to “encourage” them to accept offers of support.