UK’s Rough sleepers at risk of Covid-19 death if they remain abandoned on the streets

Although 4,000 more beds have been found in recent days to provide some shelter for homeless people, many hundreds remain on the streets where social distancing is almost impossible.

When the Prime Minister told the nation to stay at home to halt the spread of Coronavirus, it was a simple sacrifice for most.

But for people sleeping rough, it has been impossible to comply.

Thousands are still on the streets and, as well as being at high risk of infection, they are also going hungry because charities are now struggling to get hold of the food to feed them.

John, in his 40s and homeless for five years, said: “We absolutely feel abandoned. We’re left to our own devices. It’s shocking. No one is obeying the distancing rule.”

Queueing for food handouts near Charing Cross rail station in London, he said: “The police see us bunched up together, but do nothing. Homeless people are dotted all around with nowhere to go. All the libraries are closed, the churches are closed.

“Some have been promised a roof over their head. But this is news to us. We’ve heard nothing.”

Homeless charity Crisis says more than 4,000 new beds had been found in recent days, but in many cases this does not help those who have nothing to eat.

On Monday night, we saw almost 100 homeless people, including a man in a wheelchair, queue for food near Trafalgar Square in London.

In doorways nearby, dozens were curled up in sleeping bags, or tents.

Andrew Faris, of homeless charity Rhythms of Life, said he had seen no drop in numbers since the Government ordered local councils to get rough sleepers off the streets by the end of last weekend.

He said: “I wish they could find accommodation for everybody, but that is not the case.

“They would have needed to be registered before the weekend and many were not. Now we are struggling because we can’t find food we would normally get from supermarkets and restaurants that have shut.”

Prince William, patron of homeless charities The Passage and Centrepoint, has spoken of the crisis facing rough sleepers.

He told Mike Clarke, chief executive of The Passage: “We are in a life and death fight to help those living on the streets.”

Kenneth Abrams, 58, who was begging in Lewisham, South London, said: “I feel safer on the streets. It would be a death sentence to force us into a shelter all together.”

Birmingham City Council has accommodated more than 250 rough sleepers in a Holiday Inn.

Liverpool council has paid for more than 50 people to move into a new, but unopened, hotel.

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Written by

Samantha Day


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