Mayor block-books accommodation to protect homeless against COVID-19
About 300 hotel rooms in London have been made available to rough sleepers in London to help protect them against coronavirus.
The rooms were reserved for vulnerable people already known to homelessness charities as part of an initial trial.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan's office has confirmed it is working with Intercontinental Hotels Group to block-book rooms at a discounted rate for the next 12 weeks.
The move follows a recommendation made last week by the Mayor that the Government should commandeer empty hotels so rough sleepers can self-isolate to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Sadiq Khan told the London Assembly he raised the issue when he attended the Government’s top-level Cobra meeting on Monday, 16 March.
Almost 9,000 people slept on the streets of the capital last year, according to Greater London Authority data.
But those who catch coronavirus will have nowhere to self-isolate – and dormitory accommodation at hostels and shelters could worsen the spread of the virus.
The Government has already promised £3.2 million for local councils in England to fund emergency accommodation for rough sleepers.
But speaking at Mayor’s Question Time on Thursday 19 March, Mr Khan said outreach workers were concerned about how to help.
He said: " If they find someone who is a rough sleeper and they take them back to a refuge or a hostel or some other dormitory they might be inadvertently making it worse for them.
He added: "We need to bear in mind that many rough sleepers have underlying health conditions."
Half of London’s rough sleepers have mental health issues, and more than 40 per cent need support with alcohol or drug use.
And nationally, more than 40 per cent of people sleeping on the streets have long-term physical health problems – which could make them more vulnerable to coronavirus.
The Mayor said rough sleepers are a "vulnerable group that needs additional help".
He also promised he would follow up on the issue when he meets with the Prime Minister later in the day.
Written with contributions by Jessie Matthewson - Local Democracy Reporter
March 25, 2020