More than 1,000 of London’s street homeless are now accommodated in hotels or other safe locations in the city and a hotel with special provisions for those showing coronavirus symptoms has been established in the east of the capital, City Hall has announced.
Emergency action to move rough sleepers indoors as part of attempts to slow the progress of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 began three weeks ago, backed by funding from the government and Sadiq Khan, and put into effect in a combined effort by the Mayor’s rough sleeping team, borough councils, hotel chains and an array of charities.
Two weeks ago, leading homelessness charities believed 80 per cent of the capital’s rough sleepers had been moved into accommodation, following what was described as “unprecedented effort” despite staff numbers being depleted by the virus and its wider impacts. Rough sleepers are more likely than most people to have underlying health conditions, notably respiratory problems, that make them particularly susceptible to the virus.
St Mungo’s, one of London’s largest charities in the field of street homelessness, is overseeing the support of the rough sleepers themselves, who are staying in hotel rooms provided by the Travelodge, Best Western, Accor Group and InterContinental Group chains, with support from Thames Reach and others. The east London hotel where those showing symptoms are staying, which is not being identified, has a care facility which enables its residents to be monitored and given medical advice and support.
Substance misuse charities from across London have joined forces to provide specialist advice to homelessness professionals working in the hotels with rough sleepers who have drug or alcohol problems. The partnership has shared staff, expertise and IT support to provide a 24 hour advice line, with access to clinicians for complex or urgent inquires.
Sometimes, individuals are already known to local drug or alcohol treatment centres, but have been housed in hotels in distant parts of the city. Others might be newly-identified as needing help. The phone line service helps connect people to the treatment service best fitted to their circumstances and needs.
The catering firm Red-Radish, which normally provides food for festivals, touring performers and TV and film sets, is supplying three meals a day to erstwhile rough sleepers in the hotels. Black cab drivers have volunteered transport support for those working on the initiative with the help of the Free Now app.
The Mayor said it is “more important than ever to ensure the most vulnerable Londoners are supported in clean, secure accommodation” and stressed that “there is still much to do” with more money, volunteers, hotel rooms and financial backing from the government needed to if the “in for good” principle is to be applied to all rough sleepers and more lives saved as a result.
Over £10.5 million has been committed to the initiative by the Greater London Authority and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The endeavours of charities and volunteers helping the street homeless have been applauded on social media with the hashtag #LondonTogether.
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