Homeless lives at risk this winter without urgent action, charities warn

20 November 2020

Lives will be at risk from the double threat of Covid-19 and cold weather, if the government does not act to protect people forced to sleep rough this winter. 

That is the warning from 18 health and homelessness organisations in the UK including the Royal College of General Practitioners, Crisis and The Queen’s Nursing Institute.

The group, which includes leading experts and a member of the SAGE advisory committee, is calling on the UK Government to ensure everyone who is sleeping rough is given safe, self-contained accommodation, such as hotels, as a priority.  

This is due to the high risk of Covid-19 transmission in communal night shelters. The concern is that as the weather gets colder, night shelters will be used for homeless people as councils lack funding.

‘Predictions of deaths among people who have nowhere to go must act as a wake-up call to government’

As previously reported in Community Practitioner, the government moved over 15,000 people in March who were sleeping rough into emergency, self-contained accommodation, with similar action taken across the UK.

An estimated 266 deaths among England’s homeless population were saved during the first Covid-19 wave, while 21,092 infections, 1164 hospital admissions and 338 admissions to intensive care units were avoided, found a study in The Lancet.

‘Predictions of deaths among people who have nowhere else to go, other than our streets, or sleeping in communal night shelters [...] must act as a wake-up call to government,’ said Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis. ‘We cannot have hundreds or even thousands of people forced to live in crowded places.’

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