Islington homeless charities issue warning as winter draws in
- Credit: Archant
Charities across Islington say they are struggling to support homeless people in the run up to Christmas.
For the first lockdown, the government housed homeless people in hostels as part of an Everyone In campaign, but for the second lockdown, it has given councils an extra £15 million to support vulnerable people in its Protect Programme.
The money adds to £91.5 million allocated to 274 councils in September and a £10 million Cold Weather Fund for all councils to tackle rough sleeping in winter.
However, this plan has been criticised by homeless charity executives as the pressures of a second lockdown start to take their toll.
Rachel Woolf, who previously worked at Canonbury-based charity The Manna and now runs Street Storage in Camden, said: “The winter shelters not being able to open is a real problem...because unfortunately and heartbreakingly and disgustingly, people who are sleeping out are being forced to choose between dying of cold and dying of Covid in a shelter.”
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The Margins Project, which operates out of Union Chapel, has reduced its services and is focussing on providing support via drop-in sessions.
Margins’ crisis services manager, Daniela Sbrisny, said: “I don’t think we could physically manage a lot more in the same time that we have.”
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Some charities contacted by the Gazette refused to provide comment for fear the publicity would push their services past breaking point.
“If even one reader decides to send a new client to us, we’ll probably collapse,” a spokesperson for a charity said.
Meanwhile, Islington-based charity Streets Kitchen, which provides food to those in need via pop-up street stalls, has warned of a “stark winter”.
In October, co-ordinator John Glackin said: “We are staring down the barrel of possibly the worst winter we have ever seen for those experiencing homelessness.
“Day centres, where people could warm up in the day, are still shut. Shelters are not opening.
“We are calling for empty buildings to be opened, but at this point, we are moving into survival mode and gathering what we can to provide some small comfort to our friends on the street.”
In September 2020, Islington Council announced it had secured £826,000 to help support 93 extra units of accommodation, and said it was working to supporting these charities over winter.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “At the start of the pandemic we launched Everyone In, which protected thousands of vulnerable people. That work hasn’t stopped and we’ve backed it with £700 million.
“As the new national measures come into force, I am launching the Protect Programme to ensure councils are offering everyone sleeping rough on our streets today somewhere safe to go – protecting people from the virus and moving forward with our goal of eliminating rough sleeping.”