What we’re doing to support homeless and vulnerable people during the COVID-19 crisis
11 May 2020
As part of the response to the current pandemic we have opened a ‘Covid care’ hotel in Newham. Working with staff from UCL hospital and MSF, the hotel provides temporary accommodation for those who have contracted the disease, after which they return to the hotel or hostel where they were staying. This replaces the hotel in Westminster, which is now a ‘Covid protect’ scheme. Médicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have put together a short video explaining the work that is being done at the Covid Care Hotel.
We have begun to work with people housed in hostels and other temporary accommodation by the Greater London Authority and local authorities, with the aim of this work being to conduct assessments with a view to identifying future accommodation options. It’s worth noting that a very significant proportion of this group do not have a settled status, and unless this is resolved it is likely to be a significant barrier to future options. We will be outlining our issues and concerns for homeless and vulnerable people during the transition period in a statement to be released later in the process.
5 April 2020
Thames Reach have been working with several agencies and partners to provide people sleeping rough at Heathrow Airport with a clean room and all meals to allow them to self-isolate effectively, in line with city-wide efforts to ensure that the most vulnerable are not left behind during the pandemic. We are incredibly proud of the work of our team as well as those from other organisations in what was a successful project. Support will now continue between the various organisations involved. Read the full story here.
2 April 2020
Alongside many other of the UK’s providers in the homelessness sector, Thames Reach have co-signed an open letter to the Prime Minister expressing gratitude for the responses of local and central government in allowing us to provide temporary accommodation to people sleeping rough. However we have also clarified our needs going forward to help the most vulnerable groups. The letter is available to read here.
30 March 2020
We are working with our partners, local authorities and other services to ensure that no one is left rough sleeping during these times of a global pandemic.
Thames Reach are working closely with our partners including local authorities, the Greater London Authority and Heathrow in order to get people who are rough sleeping in Heathrow into single room accommodation where they can follow government guidelines on self-isolation and social distancing. Given the numbers of people involved this is a complex task, requiring us not only to obtain suitable accommodation, but also provide appropriate help as well as food and other services. Other types of ‘shelter’ accommodation which involve high levels of sharing are not suitable in the current pandemic.
Currently, anyone worried about someone rough sleeping is urged to contact Street Link, who will allow our teams to locate anyone in need of support. Anyone homeless or rough sleeping can contact the local authority (either independently or with the help of a support worker) and as hotel spaces suitable for self-isolation become available, which will be quicker than normal, they will be accommodated. We are continuing to provide outreach support 365 days a year. Provisions in hotels are being confirmed and progress is being made daily in order to make self-isolation possible. The pre-existing requirement of a local connection to a particular borough before receiving help has been lifted at this time.
27 March 2020
Last week, the government appointed Dame Louise Casey to lead its strategy on ensuring people experiencing rough sleeping are supported during the spread of COVID-19. At Thames Reach, we welcome the development of this strategy to protect the health of homeless people and the broader population. We are working as hard as we can to maintain essential services, such as outreach, hostels, supported housing and remote tenancy support. In addition, we are working with the Greater London Authority and local authorities to provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness, with hotel spaces allocated for those showing COVID-19 symptoms.
The basic principles of the strategy are to:
– focus on people who are, or are at risk of, sleeping rough, and those who are in accommodation where it is difficult to self-isolate, such as shelters and assessment centres
– make sure that these people have access to the facilities that enable them to adhere to public health guidance on hygiene or isolation, ideally single room facilities
– utilise alternative powers and funding to assist those with no recourse to public funds who require shelter and other forms of support due to the COVID-19 pandemic
– mitigate their own risk of infection, and transmission to others, by ensuring they are able to self-isolate as appropriate in line with public health guidance.
We will continue to update this page with news as the crisis develops.
26 March 2020
During the coronavirus pandemic, vulnerable people and those experiencing street homelessness are even more at risk of health complications and require increased levels of support. At Thames Reach, we are prioritising our essential services, as well as working with our partners on developing new emergency services, so that we can continue to effectively support vulnerable people and safeguard their health. Rough sleeping can have a devastating impact on mental and physical health, and many people living on the street have serious underlying health conditions, and so during this period, when most of the population is being asked to stay at home, it is absolutely essential that we are able to provide people without a home of their own a place where they can safely self-isolate and receive the support that they need.
In order to meet these needs, we are working with the Greater London Authority and other local authorities and have a team coordinating rooms in a hotel in south-west London where homeless people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 can self-isolate, whether they are street homeless or in a night shelter.
There is a rota of morning, late and night shifts covering the hotel. We are recruiting new staff to help with this urgent project, and in some cases staff are being re-deployed from other services to assist.
We are working with an on-site team of nurses and doctors to check on those self-isolating. The healthcare team decide when people can be discharged and leave. We welcome them, show them their rooms and provide them with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. For this element we are seeking partnerships with food outlets to help supply the large volume of extra food required. All this care is undertaken with full personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, and PPE is given to the client as they arrive. Contact with guests and clients is mainly via phone and food is left for them at their doors. We are looking at expanding this service as the situation develops, as we are currently at a capacity for 32 people but will need to grow with demand.
As this is a large undertaking, Thames Reach are recruiting new staff, volunteers and seeking new partnerships to assist with food and PPE supplies during this unprecedented time. If you would like to help us keep the most vulnerable safe with your time or resources, please do get in touch at: email@example.com
18 March 2020
At Thames Reach, we are closely monitoring developments relating to the spread of COVID-19 in order to best ensure the health and wellbeing of the homeless and vulnerable people we work with, as well as of our staff, volunteers, and the wider public. We are following advice issued by Public Health England and continuing conversations with commissioners, local providers, and health services so we can use the resources we have wisely, and to ensure that we are able to respond to this rapidly changing situation.
Our outreach teams work 365 days of the year, and we continue to go out to find people who are sleeping rough, offering them the support they need to get off the streets. These teams are advised to follow guidance provided by Public Health England with regard to people sleeping rough who are displaying coronavirus symptoms, and we are calling upon local authorities to provide environments where individuals can safely and securely self-isolate.
On behalf of Thames Reach, our Chief Executive, Bill Tidnam, has co-signed a letter to the government, along with senior figures from across the homelessness sector, outlining a set of measures that we believe will help protect homeless and vulnerable people during this ongoing crisis. This outline includes the request that homeless people should be allocated self-contained accommodation with sufficient resources with which to self-isolate. People who are rough sleeping are three times more likely to suffer with chronic illnesses including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and so must be supported as a matter of urgency.
The open letter can be read here, which we have signed with Crisis, Homeless Link, St Mungo’s, Centrepoint, The Passage, Groundswell, Shelter Cymru, Homeless Network Scotland and Connection at St Martin’s.
Thank you for your ongoing support during this challenging time.