Covid-secure accommodation for rough sleepers

Charities in Cornwall are working with the council to provide an innovative solution to support those rough sleeping this winter.

Harbour Housing and We Are With You are working with Cornwall Council in Newquay to provide the Duchy’s first Covid-secure cold weather provision, a project coordinated by Cornwall Housing.

Shared spaces are usually provided across Cornwall when the weather turns to keep people safe from the dangerous, often life-threatening conditions on the streets.

This year organisations were faced with the additional challenge of Covid-19 and the dangers this brings when supporting people with the increased vulnerabilities that come with spending time rough sleeping or in insecure housing.

People with experience of homelessness are more likely to be immunocompromised and suffer from health complications such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), making their safety a real concern.

All partners in this project recognised that extensive safety precautions needed to be implemented to protect both beneficiaries and staff at the project, and the first crucial step to this was ensuring that all facilities within the provision were self-contained.

The solution was found in the form of a hostel usually used to accommodate tourists and surfers, now vacant due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Twelve rooms were converted to each take in one person who would otherwise be rough sleeping, providing them with a bedroom and bathroom of their own to occupy while they worked with staff towards a move on to more permanent accommodation.

Harbour Housing, the homelessness charity providing support to individuals in the project, has experience of setting up Covid-secure facilities having made adaptations to all of its supported accommodation properties last spring.

It was able to put the same measures in place at the cold weather provision including heat screening cameras at the entrance to the building, meaning staff can monitor the body temperature of everyone who comes on-site in order to catch any early signs of the virus and protect everyone within.

Contact between all individuals inside is limited with divider screens in place and personal protective equipment made available to ensure infection control as well as regular cleaning of rooms and communal spaces.

All beneficiaries are now going to be provided with their own tablet enabling them to stay entertained while indoors, contact friends and family and access essential services online.

Specialist staff from Harbour Housing, We Are With You and Cornwall Housing are on-site providing support to address any needs surrounding housing, substance use, mental health and an eventual move to suitable long-term accommodation.

Harbour Housing operations director Malcolm Putko said: ‘This project acts as a crucial short-term intervention to provide a place of safety to those who would otherwise be facing dangerous conditions on the streets.

‘This year has been especially difficult due to the extra safety concerns that the pandemic brought with it, but I am confident that everything possible has been put in place to keep beneficiaries and staff safe.

‘The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Cornwall Housing and Cornwall Council have all been totally committed in allowing us to think innovatively, using digital media and enhanced Covid screening systems such as thermal detection cameras at entrances to ensure the risk is minimised to staff, volunteers and clients of the scheme.

‘All partners involved as well as local businesses, the local community, and town and county councillors saw the need for this project and have approached it with the practicality and flexibility needed to put people experiencing homelessness first and prioritise their safety.’

Cornwall Council portfolio holder for homes Andrew Mitchell said: ‘Keeping residents safe is our number one priority.

‘No one should be forced to sleep rough and emergency accommodation and support is available.

‘As well as this facility managed and run on behalf of the council by Harbour Housing, We Are With You and Cornwall Housing, the 21 temporary self-contained cabins on council-owned sites in Penzance and Truro remain open, as well as the self-contained rooms already available in other locations.

‘In some cases, it is not as simple as just providing an emergency place to stay. Sometimes people have complex needs and issues.

‘Each person is encouraged to work with us and our partners to agree move-on plans that address not just their housing needs, but the support they need so they don’t end up returning to a life on the streets.’

If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough please contact StreetLink who will be able to put them in touch with the local outreach services.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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