COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak: Our Recommendations
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak presents specific risks to the homelessness sector. The people that our members support are in the high risk group, with long term conditions that mean, should the virus affect a member of staff, or someone experiencing homelessness including individuals who are sleeping rough, there could be severe consequences for services.
Individuals living and sleeping in shared spaces such as hostels, night shelters, and day centres are at particular risk as they are unable to self-isolate, and services cannot close down as the people they support are then forced back to the streets, where they are at even greater risk.
As the membership body for the homelessness and supported housing sector, our responsibility is to advise our members on how to prevent the spread of the virus, and to prepare for different scenarios that may occur.
Our recommendations for action:
- Local areas ought to establish a homelessness and COVID-19 task force, including the police, housing, health, homelessness, people with lived experience, the wider voluntary sector, and other relevant stakeholders.
- A local needs analysis should be undertaken, which includes the nature and location of homeless/rough sleeping cohorts; current intelligence on the demographic and the needs of current rough sleepers; the perceived risk in each of the main homelessness services (day centres, hostels and night shelters) including risk from staff and volunteers. This should include the numbers of people with no recourse to public funds in their area, as this is one of the groups that may be disproportionately affected.
- Services should be mindful that COVID-19 is more likely to enter the sector through staff than through clients, so it will be important that all local messaging by stakeholders avoids a focus on people using services as the source of any outbreak. Members can influence this locally.
- Services ought to establish a screening protocol for all staff, volunteers and others in regular contact with the service. At a minimum, outreach teams will need guidance on what to look for and training in what to do should they suspect the presence of COVID-19.
- A self-isolation protocol, and contingency plan should be developed, as well as a plan for priority treatment for rough sleepers found to have the virus who cannot self-isolate.
We are providing our members with information and guidance as it becomes available, in order to support them with putting plans and practice in place to protect the people they support.