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Coronavirus effects could be ‘devastating’ for rough-sleepers

20 March 2020

Ten charities have asked for rapid access to testing for homeless people


THE coronavirus could have a devastating effect on homeless people, charities have warned the Prime Minister.

They have called on Boris Johnson to recognise that people sleeping rough are a vulnerable group, together with the over-70s, people with certain medical conditions, and expectant mothers. They point out that people on the street are three times more likely to experience a chronic health condition, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Ten organisations, including Crisis, St Mungo’s, and Centrepoint, have asked for rapid access to testing for homeless people, and the provision of hotel-style self-contained accommodation with a private bathroom so that they can self-isolate. Outreach teams should test people on the streets and in sheltered accommodation and hostels.

The charities are also seeking assurances that frontline workers in organisations for the homeless are recognised as an emergency service, as part of the overall response to Covid-19.

They say that government measures for hostels and day centres “fail to provide the much more comprehensive plan and wide-ranging action needed to ensure that everyone facing homelessness is provided with self-contained accommodation”. They also want action to ensure that people whose livelihoods vanish as a result of the virus are not left homeless.

The director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, Matthew Downie, said on Tuesday: “This is a population of people where the average age of death is 45, and people die regularly from respiratory problems.

“What we are calling for is extraordinary measures to make sure people don’t die of coronavirus simply because they are homeless. We are already seeing lots of offers from hotel chains for giving up accommodation for this purpose. We are not talking about millions of people, it’s just a few thousand; so it can be done.”

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