Written by: Sean Morrissey
The news of late is pretty grim. You wake up every morning to the TV over tea and toast to news that’s solely focused on coronavirus. You comb your hair, you brush your teeth, you make a plan for yet another day in isolation - but it’s okay. You call a friend, walk the dog, and otherwise abide by all social distancing guidelines, after all your home is the safest place to be.
However, not everyone is so fortunate to wake up in the warm bed of a safe home. An example of a typical story is someone like Davy - who didn’t always sleep rough but he does now. In fact, not so many months ago, Davy woke up every morning in his modest one-bedroom, fit for Davy and his partner to afford on a retail wage. Things were tight but they made it work until they couldn’t and as the relationship dissolved so too did Davy’s home security. He would spend the next several weeks hopping around local hostels, commuting to and from work until the cost of his stay outpaced the money coming in. Overwhelmed, he took leave from work and has been living rough through most of 2020; just one of the more than 4,200 people sleeping on the streets of London every night.
The challenges besetting rough sleepers, be it the need for personal safety or disease prevention, are well understood and have been further exacerbated by the outbreak of coronavirus across the UK. Recent research published through WPI economics finds that while rough sleeping throughout London alone has increased by more than 150% since 2010, related funding for homelessness aid has been cut by £1 billion annually (read the WPI 'Home for Good' briefing below).
With millions self-isolating at home, limiting outdoor time and activity, rough sleepers like Davy go without refuge, increasing their risk of exposure to this highly contagious disease. There is also added concern that, as many rough sleepers make periodic use of group homes and community hostels, overcrowding will invariably clash with NHS social distancing guidelines.
As a leading voice for human rights and one of the largest homelessness charities in the UK, St. Mungo’s dedicated volunteer network is working tirelessly to provide safe means of self- isolation and medical care to those in need. At the time of writing, St Mungo’s outreach teams have placed more than 600 individuals into self-isolating spaces, providing a safe and stable foundation from which to explore options for long-term accommodation.
These figures are a testament to the brave men and women at St. Mungo’s who are working around the clock to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. With our support, they can continue to help provide the means necessary to safely house and care for those experiencing homelessness. There is an immediate need to assist individuals in harm’s way, and help them on a path toward permanent housing. The end goal remains the same, by empowering individuals back into a life of dignity and to protect them from harm.
Your support of St. Mungo’s, through Peace Partners’ fundraising appeals not only serves the immediate needs of outreach teams during the crisis, but provides a foundation on which to build a new future.