The Mayor of London is offering free food and accommodation to the capital’s homeless community in a bid to protect them during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Sadiq Khan said he is “determined to do all he can” to help vulnerable rough sleepers battling the Coronavirus outbreak from the streets of London.
The emergency response, announced today (Sat), will see 300 hotel rooms made available for homeless people in London to self-isolate as the pandemic continues.
Rough sleepers will also be provided with free food throughout their stay at the three-star hotels, which were provided at a substantial discount.
The Mayor’s team has worked with Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to block-book the rooms in two London hotels for the next 12 weeks in an emergency response.
Black cabbies have also volunteered to help transport rough sleepers between support services as part of the Mayor’s initiative.
Mr Khan said: “The coronavirus outbreak affects everyone in London and we must do all we can to safeguard everyone’s health – not least those Londoners who face spending each night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets.
“Rough sleepers already face difficult and uncertain lives and I’m determined to do all I can to ensure they, along with all Londoners, are given the best protection possible.
“My heartfelt thanks go to InterContinental Hotels Group for stepping up and playing their part in helping protect rough sleepers during this difficult period.
“We are also very grateful to the black cab drivers from FreeNow and Gett who have offered to transport rough sleepers to these rooms, helping them to avoid using public transport.
“Together, as a city, we will come through this incredibly challenging period.”
As part of a trial period, rough sleepers who are already known to the homelessness charities supported by the Mayor, will be moved to the rooms throughout the weekend.
City Hall will then continue to identify others sleeping rough and ensure everyone gets the support they need, working with a range of partners including London’s boroughs and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The emergency response is backed by Government which, with the Mayor, has provided funding to kickstart this work.
The Mayor’s team is also working with black cab drivers, via hailing apps FreeNow and Gett, who have volunteered to help transport people between support services.
MP Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, said: “We must be vigilant in the fight against coronavirus.
“While it poses a threat to all of us, there is a danger of it disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable people in our society, especially rough sleepers.
“That is why my officials will be working very closely with the GLA to ensure that rough sleepers get the support they need to remain safe and secure at this difficult time.”
Rough sleepers are significantly more likely to have underlying health conditions, including respiratory problems, than the wider population.
They are also far less likely to be able to follow Public Health England advice, such as self-isolation, social distancing and hand-washing.
Much existing accommodation available to rough sleepers, while vitally important, is unsuitable for self-isolation.
It forms part of the Mayor’s and the Government’s wider efforts to protect rough sleepers during this difficult time.
The Prime Minister’s rough sleeping adviser thanked Mr Khan and Mr Jenrick for their support in “getting everyone in.”
Dame Louise Casey said: “I would like to thank the London Mayor and the Secretary of State for their support in getting everyone in.
“It is so important that we properly support all vulnerable during this difficult time including people that are sleeping rough.”
Mr Khan’s team will continue to work with IHG and other hotel operators to see if further such block-bookings will be possible as and when they are needed.