Rough sleepers in London are being offered hotel rooms for the next three months to get them off the streets and protect them from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has worked on a deal with Intercontinental Hotels Group to block-book rooms across two hotels – giving homeless people somewhere they can socially distance themselves and self-isolate if they become unwell.
However with just 300 hotel rooms made available, there are more than 700 rough sleepers still stuck sleeping on London streets.
Khan said: “The coronavirus outbreak affects everyone in London and we must do all we can to safeguard everyone’s health – not least those Londoners who face spending each night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets.
“Rough sleepers already face difficult and uncertain lives and I’m determined to do all I can to ensure they, along with all Londoners, are given the best protection possible.
“Together, as a city, we will come through this incredibly challenging period.”
In recent weeks, homelessness charity Glass Door, which runs a network of shelters across the English capital, told The Big Issue it had already had to turn away three people who were showing symptoms of coronavirus.
The plans coming out of City Hall are exactly what the Museum of Homelessness demanded from the government a week ago. Co-founder Jessica Turtle, who had met with homelessness health specialists before drawing up contingency plans for London’s rough sleepers, told The Big Issue: “We need to make single units with bathrooms available because of the viral load.
“That means if unwell people are in close proximity – for example, in a big shared sleeping space – they’ll become more unwell. It’s a cumulative effect, it isn’t a case of you’ve got it or you haven’t.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, welcomed the Mayor’s move but said much more must be done, adding: “We cannot overstate how urgent it is that every person who is homeless across Britain is given a safe, secure place to stay during the pandemic.”
The news follows housing secretary Robert Jennick’s announcement of a £3.2 million pot for councils to protect local rough sleepers from the pandemic.
This weekend The Big Issue took the difficult decision to temporarily stop our vendors selling the magazine on the streets.
Big Issue founder John Bird said: “Coronavirus is an unprecedented threat to public health. Our sellers, many of whom are homeless and rough sleeping, are already highly vulnerable and it is only right that we make this difficult decision to protect their welfare at this critical time.”
While The Big Issue works to ensure the safety of our vendors, you can support all of us in these three ways: