Above Photo: REUTERS. Rough sleepers already known to charities will be part of an initial trial
Hotel beds have been offered to rough sleepers in London to help protect them against coronavirus.
About 300 rooms were made available this weekend to vulnerable people already known to homelessness charities as part of an initial trial.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office is working with Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to block-book rooms at a discounted rate for the next 12 weeks.
It comes as Londoners and visitors stay away from central London.
On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered restaurants, pubs, cafes and leisure centres to close.
Instead, people have taken to parks including Hyde Park and Battersea Park.
Rough sleepers are significantly more likely to have underlying health conditions – including respiratory problems – than the wider population.
They are also far less likely to be able to follow Public Health England advice on self-isolation, social distancing and handwashing.
The rooms would provide “vital protection” for rough sleepers who could use the space to self-isolate, the mayor’s office said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Rough sleepers already face difficult and uncertain lives and I’m determined to do all I can to ensure they, along with all Londoners, are given the best protection possible.”
Petra Salva, director of rough sleeping services at St Mungo’s homeless charity, said teams were working around-the-clock to support people during the “unprecedented crisis”.
‘Not using hotels’
But Steve Folk, who walked around central London on Saturday handing out £400 he had received in donations to homeless people, said he was concerned many were struggling from the lack of donations now that people were distancing themselves from central London.
“Usually when I go out you have homeless people amongst working people and people who are housed, but now it’s unreal. I’d say half the people you see outside are homeless people. They are left unable to self isolate,” he said.
He added a Big Issue seller had told him he knew people that had been given a hotel room but were not using them.
“There are a lot of people hanging out at Charing Cross Station still. It might be that they are conditioned to be in that environment and I don’t know if hotels are freaking them out or if they are looking for the social element [of being at the train subway].”