PROTECTING PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS IN THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
Caritas Anchor House is closely monitoring developments and is following official guidance about coronavirus (COVID-19). Yesterday, Monday 16th March, the Government published guidance for providers of hostels or day centres for people experiencing rough sleeping.
Caritas Anchor House, alongside many homelessness charities including Crisis, are deeply concerned that the measures set out do not go far enough and so we urge the Government to go much further to protect homeless people.
People experiencing homelessness, particularly those rough sleeping, are particularly vulnerable in this outbreak. They are three times more likely to experience a chronic health condition including asthma and COPD, and the average age of death of someone who is homeless is 45 – substantially lower than the general population.
Crucially, the government’s guidance fails to include measures to enable people who are sleeping rough or living in shelters and hostels to self-isolate. We are calling on national governments and local councils to take emergency measures to ensure people experiencing homelessness can access self-contained accommodation with private bathrooms.
Homelessness charities are calling for the following measures to be taken as a matter of urgency:
- People sleeping rough and living in hostel and shelter accommodation to have rapid access to healthcare assistance and appropriate housing
- Assistance to secure hotel style accommodation to meet the increased need
- Removal of legal barriers so that anyone who is at risk of, or is already homeless, can access self-contained accommodation
- Provide additional financial support through the Universal Credit system to ensure people are not pushed to the brink of homelessness
- Protect renters from evictions by temporarily suspending the use of Section 21 and Section 8 evictions
- The Government should ring-fence a proportion of the £5bn fund announced in the Budget last week to fight Covid-19 for local authorities to help deliver these measures.
As always, our focus is on the safety and welfare of the residents living in our accommodation, and we are reviewing information daily. We house 140 people every day, and support over 250 people experiencing homelessness each year, and are doing all we can to keep them as safe and informed as possible.
We are also supporting our staff, and know the minimum staffing levels required to keep our services running should the virus have an impact on staff’s ability to come into work. We are working with partners including our local authority to implement the guidance and keep people safe.