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Coronavirus: Islington to set up Covid-19 task force to help homeless people

PUBLISHED: 14:04 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:30 13 March 2020

The government expects to ask people over 70 to self-isolate very soon. Picture: PA

The government expects to ask people over 70 to self-isolate very soon. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

An emergency meeting will take place tomorrow to establish a Covid-19 task force dedicated to helping the homeless in Islington.

Representatives from Islington Council, Streets Kitchen, Shelter from the Storm, Museum of Homelessness, The Outside Project and The Margins Project will all attend the summit at the Union Chapel in Compton Terrace.

This comes after charity Homeless Link last week called on local authorities to establish task forces to support people rough sleeping who catch the virus.

As of 9am on Wednesday, 387 people had been confirmed as positive for Covid-19 and six patients with the coronavirus has died. There was one confirmed case in Islington.

Homeless charities and outreach groups have criticised the government for an alleged lack of guidance on how to safely help rough sleepers who contract Covid-19.

On Sunday volunteers from a homeless outreach group gave out tissues, soap and coronavirus health advice to people sleeping rough in Finsbury Park.

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Streets Kitchen coordinator Jon Glackin told the Gazette: 'It's time for action, we need to do something. This is the first task force in London, maybe even in the UK - and that's quite telling. It's the small groups working on the ground putting this together.'

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday pledged £650million to tackle rough sleeping in his budget, but Jon said: 'To be honest I don't think those in poverty are a priority to this government. Homelessness is still increasing, food bank use is exploding - I really think they don't care.'

He added: 'The positive is all these local groups are going to meet to get a task force up and running, and the grassroots groups are doing this. We are getting no official guidance, no assistance whatsoever.

'For example, last night I was in Camden with a thermometer testing people, luckily no one had a temperature because all I could do is call 111.'

He's calling for 'simple solutions' like wash facilities and places for homeless people to self-isolate to be made available as a matter of urgency.

Jon added: 'There's old people in their homes scared to go out, imagine being a homeless person who's old or has a bad chest anyway?'

He's also called for all, or at least some of, the disused buildings in the capital to be opened up for homeless people to self-isolate in.

Volunteers counted 51 rough sleepers in Islington during the annual street count in December - an increase of 8 people on the previous year.


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