Homeless people without stable accommodation are struggling to self-isolate or wash their hands as often as is advised during the current coronavirus outbreak. Here’s what you can do to help those sleeping rough in the pandemic.
Rough sleepers need support all year round, but the recent pandemic has made this community even more vulnerable.
Unable to follow even the more basic advice to stay safe and healthy, homeless people are being faced with multiple challenges when it comes to hygiene and self-isolation. For many, staying off the streets means sharing a crowded room at a hostel which is an ideal place for infection to spread.
On the streets homeless people often need to gather together for safety, warmth and solidarity, which also mean self-isolating is almost impossible.
Although helping the homeless is a honourable deed all year round (for example, providing sunscreen and water in the summer or umbrellas and gloves in the winter), you might be wondering specifically how you can help the homeless community amid the coronavirus crisis.
So far the government has pledged £3.2 million to help councils across the country with the cost of housing the homeless and providing services that will help them to self-isolate, but there are things you can do, too.
Give out hand sanitiser
It may be a small gesture considering how difficult it is for homeless people to access other hygiene-related resources, but homeless charity Crisis notes that those living on the streets are unable to protect themselves from coronavirus with one basic act that we would consider compulsory: washing hands. Giving out hand sanitiser is a small step to helping them feel more protected.
Donate to the coronavirus homelessness fund
Crisis has set-up a coronavirus-specific fund at this time uncertain time. “People who are homeless are hit especially hard by the coronavirus outbreak. But together we can get vital care to vulnerable people,” they say.
“It’s hard to protect yourself from the coronavirus outbreak when you’re homeless. People who are sleeping rough are more likely to suffer from respiratory conditions. They can’t wash their hands. And if someone is sleeping rough or in a crowded night shelter, it’s impossible to self-isolate.”
You can donate any amount to the coronavirus fund and the money will be used to deliver ‘essentials’ packages to homeless people, providing mobiles so they can keep up to date with the latest advice and keeping doors to shelters open.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen – if you feel comfortable to
Soup kitchens around the country are struggling for staff as many of the volounteers fall into the retired and elderly bracket, and have therefore been asked to stay at home and self-isolate.
BBC News reports that The People’s Kitchen in Newcastle has lost 30% of its volunteer workforce as many of them are over 70, so instead the remaining few have taken to setting up tables in the car park with hot soup, sandwiches and cakes.
With venue spaces to hold these services also being under threat, some are going outside to offer food to those who need it. Look into which soup kitchens are near you and enquire whether they need extra hands at this time when their staffing resources may be impacted. You can even offer to help by following the lead of The People’s Kitchen and setting up additional tables outside if the venue has had to close.
Check up on the vulnerable in your area
With the streets deserted, homeless people are reporting that their usual source of donations is disappearing fast.
If you feel comfortable, take a walk around your area, specifically to any spots you know are favoured by the homeless and drop off some bottles of water and food.
With hardly any money being given out on the streets, many homeless people will be concerned with lack of food and water as a effect of the pandemic, even if they aren’t experiencing any symptoms.