More than 1,000 homeless people in London are now self-isolating in hotels and other locations during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the mayor’s office.
City Hall has been working with the government and charities to block-book rooms across hotel chains including Best Western, Travelodge, InterContinental and Accor. Specialist rough sleeper support is being overseen by St Mungo’s, while Change Grow Live is providing substance misuse support for those who need it. Anyone developing symptoms of COVID-19 will be referred to a specialist facility in a hotel in east London.
The operation is being funded by a £10.5m grant from the mayor and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The government had previously written to all local authorities instructing them to find emergency accommodation for rough sleepers by the end of March (DDN, April, page 4).
Official figures from three years ago put the number of rough sleepers in London at just under 1,000, although the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) – which is managed by St Mungo’s – said the total number of people seen sleeping rough in the capital by outreach workers was closer to 8,000 (DDN, February 2017, page 4).
‘As we approach the peak of the coronavirus pandemic it is more important than ever to ensure the most vulnerable Londoners are supported in clean, secure accommodation,’ said mayor Sadiq Khan. ‘I’m proud that this outstanding coalition of compassionate organisations, charities and individuals have stepped up to the challenge. The speed with which we have acted, and the willingness of multinational companies to work with us at this critical time, is testament to what can be achieved when we work together.’ There was however, more to do, he stated. ‘More money, volunteers and hotel rooms will be required.’
Round the clock support
‘Our teams are working round the clock to support over 1,000 people who were living on the streets or in emergency hubs into hotel accommodation in London,’ added St Mungo’s chief executive Howard Sinclair. ‘Thanks to the GLA and other partners, these vulnerable people are now in a place where they can self-isolate in safety, and are out of harm’s way. We begin to look beyond the crisis and work out next options for people when they have to leave their crisis accommodation. This will enable us to ensure that support and housing is available to anyone at risk of sleeping rough so people have a home for good.’