Activists from the Museum of Homelessness and Streets Kitchen have teamed up with Islington Council to lobby the government for funding that could offer street homeless people with coronavirus a place to receive treatment off the streets.
In a letter to Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, the signatories said they were “deeply concerned” by the lack of planning for rough sleepers in London as the COVID-19 pandemic deepens – and want ministers to fund Mildmay Hospital which “stands ready” to take in homeless people diagnosed with the virus.
Earlier this week outreach staff from the organisations offered coronavirus screening to homeless people they were working with, but realised there was little they could do for them if any came back positive.
“The guidance to call 111 and self-isolate just isn’t adequate for any of our guests,” Museum of Homelessness co-founder Jess Turtle told The Big Issue. “We spent the rest of the day and the next morning coming up with this strategy – which I understand is only effective for London but it’s at least something we can offer locally – to request that the governmentt enable Mildmay to admit homeless people who were testing positive for the virus.”
The organisations had already been supporting Mildmay Hospital’s campaign to stay open. The facility, which has a history of providing specialist treatment for those with HIV, is under threat of imminent closure due to lack of funding.
“It really seems like now it’s time for action because there are absolutely no provisions in place as far as we can tell,” Turtle said. “Mildmay is ready to serve this purpose but at the moment we can’t refer anyone as they need funding in place for staffing and to open up the beds.”