Islington Covid-19 homeless taskforce says ‘massive community effort’ has keep vulnerable people safe during pandemic

Rough sleeper illustrated in Crisis charity's campaign by model with sleeping bag. Picture: Sam Mell

Rough sleeper illustrated in Crisis charity's campaign by model with sleeping bag. Picture: Sam Mellish - Credit: Archant

Islington’s Covid-19 homeless taskforce says a “massive community effort” has kept some of the most vulnerable people in the borough safe during the coronavirus crisis.

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

Matt and Jess Turtle from Museum of Homelessness. Picture: Jess Turtle - Credit: Archant

When social justice charity Museum of Homelessness (MoH), grassroots outreach group Streets Kitchen and Islington Council created England’s first Covid-19 taskforce in March, things looked dire.

Volunteers said there was a lack of government guidance on how to keep homeless people safe.

MoH co-founder Jess Turtle told the Gazette: “At the beginning of this we were really picturing the worst, having to be doing palliative care at street level. “It hasn’t been like that, people have been really looked after and that has been a supreme effort around the UK.”

Of the 50 to 60 people the taskforce has supported during the crisis, Jess is only aware of one person who is likely to have caught the virus.

Matt Turtle sorting food packages. Picture: Jess Turtle

Matt Turtle sorting food packages. Picture: Jess Turtle - Credit: Archant


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MoH, Streets Kitchen and others successfully lobbied the authorities to bulk-book hotel rooms with bathrooms so homeless people have somewhere safe to self-isolate.

The homeless taskforce operates from the Popham and Cummings Community Centre in Popham Street.

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Food parcels and personal protective equipment is distributed to sister projects in Hackney, Lambeth, Camden and Tower Hamlets.

Volunteers have to wash their hands outside, don a mask and have their temperature checked before entering the hub.

Streets Kitchen coordinator Jon Glackin. Picture: Jess Turtle

Streets Kitchen coordinator Jon Glackin. Picture: Jess Turtle - Credit: Archant

“The whole thing has been a massive community effort,” she said. “We have 50 local volunteers who are amazing. St Peter’s mutual aid group have been sewing masks. St Mary’s have been doing hot meals and breakfasts. Greenpeace’s office is just up the road, they do hot meals four times a week.

“Residents have brought donations of food, the whole community spirit around the hub has been so remarkable and we couldn’t have done it without Islington residents.”

Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: “Islington’s homeless taskforce represents everything that’s good about Islington and Islington residents. You have lots of different groups and really brilliant volunteers coming together during a crisis to help out some of the most vulnerable people in the borough. I hope even when the crisis is over we can continue with the homeless taskforce, it’s been brilliant. It’s now up to the government to try to take the lead on ending homelessness permanently.”

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

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

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