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Crisis calls for emergency measures to protect people facing homelessness in the coronavirus outbreak

Today, Monday 16th March, the Westminster Government has published COVID-19 guidance for hostel or day centre providers of services for people experiencing rough sleeping.

National homelessness charity, Crisis, is deeply concerned that the measures set out don’t go far enough. Crucially, the guidance fails to include measures to enable people who are sleeping rough, or living in shelters and hostels, to self-isolate.

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.

The charity is calling on national governments and local councils to take emergency measures to ensure people experiencing homelessness can access self-contained accommodation with private bathrooms.

This should include assistance from national governments to secure hotel style accommodation to meet the increased need.   

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “The guidance we have received to-date is inadequate. It fails to set out a plan for how people experiencing homelessness can self-isolate in this outbreak.

“We need emergency action to protect people in this very vulnerable situation – this must include testing and access to housing. Let’s not forget that the average age of death of someone who is homeless is 45, substantially lower than the general population. Given the obvious vulnerability, the only answer can be to provide housing that allows people to self-isolate.”

Crisis is 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 from national governments 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 Westminster Government should ringfence a proportion of the £5bn fund announced in the Budget last week to fight Covid-19 for local authorities to help deliver these measures.

Crisis is also calling for national governments and local councils to ensure that frontline workers in homelessness organisations are recognised as an emergency service as part of their response to COVID-19.