CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Fears of a winter ‘humanitarian crisis’ for homeless

People need to be protected from "double threat" of cold and coronavirus, say experts

08 October, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Groups are raising the alarm on World Homeless Day

A DAY of action has been organised by grassroots groups who are warning of an impending “humanitarian disaster” if more is not done to safeguard rough sleepers during the winter months.

Homelessness organisations have already raised concerns about the lack of shelter provision planned this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Streets Kitchen, The Outside Project and The Museum of Homelessness have teamed up again to stage a demonstration in Trafalgar Square on Saturday – which will be World Homeless Day.

They will be handing out sleeping bags from noon to 3pm and collecting donations of new socks, sleeping bags, tents and ponchos which will be distributed in the colder months.

Jessica Turtle, co–founder of the Museum of Homelessness, said: “We don’t want to do anything unsafe and don’t believe now is the right time to be holding large protests, but we must take action.

“Winter is fast approaching and we are seeing more and more people on the streets. Combine these factors with the second and third waves of Covid and we are deeply worried about a potential humanitarian crisis.

Donations are needed 

“The government seems to think that the Everyone In scheme has solved homelessness, when this couldn’t be further from the truth. We know people who have been left to return to the streets and no longer have a place to self-isolate.

“The work carried out from March saved lives but it could all go to waste now as there is a potential for serious outbreaks of the virus on the streets.”

Organisers say they are carrying out risk assessments and have plans in place to ensure social distancing for the event.

Streets Kitchen co-ordinator Jon Glackin said: “We are staring down the barrel of possibly the worst winter we have ever seen for those experiencing homelessness.

“Day centres, where people could warm up in the day, are still shut. Shelters are not opening. We are calling for empty buildings to be opened, but at this point we are moving into survival mode and gathering what we can to provide some small comfort to our friends on the street.”

 

The Royal College of Physicians and Crisis are among 17 leading health and homlessness organisations to issue a stark warning this week that without government action lives will “most certainly be lost”.

The group, which includes experts from a range of sectors and a member of the government’s SAGE advisory committee, is calling on ministers to protect people from what they call the “double threat” of Covid-19 and cold weather.

They want promises that everyone who is sleeping rough is given safe, self-contained accommodation, and councils are given “vital” funding needed to protect people from the virus.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote in a letter to housing secretary Robert Jenrick on Wednesday that the lack of guidance for night shelters and absence of funding could cause the city to see “soaring” rates of coronavirus infections.

Donations of new items – due to Covid restrictions – are welcomed. Cash donations can be made to Streets Kitchen here, https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/StreetsKitchen and the Museum of Homelessness via their website, https://museumofhomelessness.org/

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