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There With You: Emergency hotel for homeless people affected by coronavirus to open in King’s Cross

PUBLISHED: 14:24 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:52 03 April 2020

Matt Turtle sorting food packages. Picture: Jess Turtle

Matt Turtle sorting food packages. Picture: Jess Turtle

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An emergency hotel to accommodate rough sleepers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic could open in King’s Cross on Monday.

Food packages for homeless people self-isolating. Picture: Jess TurtleFood packages for homeless people self-isolating. Picture: Jess Turtle

An emergency hotel to accommodate rough sleepers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic could open in King’s Cross on Monday.

Queer charity The Outside Project [TOP] and Islington Council are set to lease the 45-room YHA hostel for three months.

The Outside Project, which is part of Islington’s Covid-19 Homelessness Task Force, will be running a 22-bed space catering for homeless people from the LGBTQI+ community.

The council will use the remaining space for rough sleepers in the borough.

Volunteers from Islington's Covid-19 Homelessness Task Force. Picture: Jess TurtleVolunteers from Islington's Covid-19 Homelessness Task Force. Picture: Jess Turtle

All rooms will be self-contained and each guest self-isolating at the hotel will have access to their own bathroom.

TOP had already been in talks with YHA hostel and the invited Islington Council to get involved.

TOP’s director, Carla Ecola, who helps run its LGBTQI+ shelter and community centre in the former Clerkenwell Fire Station in Roseberry Avenue, said: “We will be running a 22-bed space specifically for LGBTQI+ people so that organisations that would refer to our shelter can still refer to us. But, obviously, our waiting list will be a bit longer and more dangerous people [who could have the virus] can’t wait for space. They can’t sofa surf or stay with friends so the risks to our community are high. It’s a good project, a proper community response.”

This comes after the government told all local authorities to house every homeless person in their area by Sunday last week, giving them just 48-hours to achieve the task.

Streets Kitchen coordinator Jon Glackin. Picture: Jess TurtleStreets Kitchen coordinator Jon Glackin. Picture: Jess Turtle

Islington’s housing chief conceded this hasn’t yet been possible, saying the government has “severely underestimated” the task at hand because the “Covid-19 crisis itself has caused a huge amount of homelessness”.

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He said much of this rise is driven by people who were hidden homeless, including those sofa surfing who no longer have anywhere to stay.

Asked how many people the council has so far helped off the streets, Cllr Ward added: “I couldn’t put a figure on it because the flow of people is not coming to an end. We are seeing more and more people being street homeless, I think, as a result of the crisis.

Matt and Jess Turtle from Museum of Homelessness. Picture: Jess TurtleMatt and Jess Turtle from Museum of Homelessness. Picture: Jess Turtle

“Our outreach team and housing needs team is working so hard. The big message is this is not going to go away in six hours or 24 hours because people are still being made homeless.”

Islington’s Covid-19 task force has set up a base at the Popham and Cummings Community Centre, where outreach group Streets Kitchen and social justice charity Museum of Homelessness (MoH) are making food packages for homeless people now self-isolating in temporary accommodation.

On the government’s demand for council’s to get everyone off the street MoH co-founder Jess Turtle said: “That’s not happened. Council’s are doing as much as they can to accommodate everyone but we are not yet as a stage where everyone is inside.

“To be frank, the government’s declaration was unrealistic and it seemed liked a ridiculous thing to give all local authorities hours to get everyone inside. These are people’s lives we are talking about so it’s not a time to score political points, it’s a time for everyone to work together.”

She added: “One of the things that’s bothered us in Museum of Homelessness is all the talk government is ending homelessness.

“I don’t think we can say we have ended homelessness by putting them in a hotel room as a temporary measure, so it’s not an end to homelessness but a public health measure. An emergency hotel room is not the answer to ending homelessness. Home is not a hotel room.”

Street’s Kitchen coordinator Jon Glackin added: “Before it didn’t effect rich people. But now it does. It effects everybody. But this could have been put into place anytime, with the right political will homelessness could be ended in one stroke. And maybe this is the opportunity to end homelessness if the right funding and support is in place.”

TOP is crowdfunding to help cover the costs of the hotel, you can donate here.

Click here for a directory of agencies helping people in the borough during the pandemic.

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