Coronavirus: London’s rough sleepers to be housed in hotels during pandemic

Some 300 rooms will be offered in initial trial this weekend

Colin Drury
Saturday 21 March 2020 16:00
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Hotels in central London are to make beds available to rough sleepers in a bid to protect them from coronavirus.

Some 300 rooms will be offered to the homeless in an initial trial this weekend.

But more could be made available over the next three months with the mayor’s office working with InterContinental Hotels Group to block book beds for the entire period at a discounted rate.

In a separate development, The Big Issue magazine will no longer be sold on the streets in a further bid to protect the vendors – many of them homeless – from the pandemic.

Rough sleepers are significantly more likely to have underlying health conditions, including respiratory problems, than the wider population, making them more vulnerable to Covid-19.

They are also far less likely to be able to follow Public Health England’​s advice on self-isolation, social distancing and hand-washing.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The coronavirus outbreak affects everyone in London and we must do all we can to safeguard everyone’s health – not least those Londoners who face spending each night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets.

He added: “Together, as a city, we will come through this incredibly challenging period.”

Petra Salva, director of rough sleeping services at St Mungo’s homeless charity, said teams are working round the clock to support people during the “unprecedented crisis.”

Black cab drivers have also volunteered their services to help transport people to allocated hotels.

Steve McNamara, general secretary at the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “London cabbies have always been there to help those in need and this current crisis is no different.

“Black cabs are the right vehicles for this, designed to be easily cleaned and sterilised, with a partition separating passengers from drivers.”

Lord Bird, founder of The Big Issue, said: “Coronavirus is an unprecedented threat to public health. Our sellers, many of whom are homeless, are already highly vulnerable and it is only right that we act now to protect their welfare at this critical time.”

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