London lockdown: Fears London faces a homelessness ‘crisis’ this winter due to Covid restrictions – My London
A charity has warned that London faces a homelessness “crisis” this winter, as social distancing requirements limit the number of people who can be helped off the streets.
With the economy in turmoil, more people are expected to lose their homes.
But to enable social distancing, Glass Door is having to radically change how it operates, despite knowing this will mean it can protect fewer people.
Last year, Glass Door found shelter for around 170 men and women every night across south and west London.
Its unique operating model involves churches and community centres forming units of seven, and taking turns to shelter groups of rough sleepers on each night of the week.
This “rotating” system involved 34 different shelters last winter, spread across Richmond, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea.
But new government guidance around social distancing has required Glass Door to instead secure two large hostels in Paddington and the West End that have separate bedrooms.
Glass Door CEO Lucy Abraham (Image: Glass Door)
Whilst this is safer, the charity’s CEO explained it is far more expensive, and will cut the number of beds it can provide by more than half.
Lucy Abraham said: “We are modifying our services in line with the guidance, but the number of people who will be able to find a space will undoubtedly fall far short of demand.
“The combination of fewer shelter spaces at a time when more people are expected to face homelessness this winter is a crisis in the making.
“We will do all we can to keep everyone safe while Covid-19 is still at large. But what will happen to all those who would normally find a space in a shelter run by charities such as ours?”
She continued: “We think more needs to be done to analyse and balance the risk of sleeping inside shelters with sleeping outside in the freezing cold.”
In the 34 shelters, Glass Door and its volunteers and case workers were able to provide hot meals and advice services. Under the new model, churches across south and west London will be mobilised to run a dinner service.
“We know night shelters save lives, but they also provide community and combat loneliness, which our guests repeatedly tell us is an important component of their journey out of homelessness,” said Ms Abraham.
“At least people in need will be able to find a hot meal and a kind word.”
Earlier this year, the Government was complimented for its Everyone In initiative, which saw thousands of rough sleepers offered accommodation in hotels. It also put a ban on landlords being able to evict tenants, which came to an end on September 20.
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This winter there will not be a repeat of Everyone In, but the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government is instead giving £161 million to councils across the country to spend on accommodation for homeless people.
The Ministry will also spend £10 million on a Cold Weather Fund for councils to help find accommodation for rough sleepers, and give £2 million of grants to charities.
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