Kensington & ChelseaNews

Warning of “homelessness crisis” this winter as social distancing limits number that can be helped of the streets

By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter

A charity has warned that London faces a homelessness “crisis” this winter, as social distancing requirements limit the number of people who can be helped off the streets.

With the economy in turmoil, more people are expected to lose their homes.

But to enable social distancing, Glass Door is having to radically change how it operates, despite knowing this will mean it can protect fewer people.

Last year, Glass Door found shelter for around 170 men and women every night across South and west London.

Its unique operating model involves churches and community centres forming units of seven, and taking turns to shelter groups of rough sleepers on each night of the week.

This “rotating” system involved 34 different shelters last winter, spread across Richmond, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea.

But new government guidance around social distancing has required Glass Door to instead secure two large hostels in Paddington and the West End that have separate bedrooms.

Whilst this is safer, the charity’s chief executive explained it is far more expensive, and will cut the number of beds it can provide by more than half.

Lucy Abraham said: “We are modifying our services in line with the guidance, but the number of people who will be able to find a space will undoubtedly fall far short of demand.

“The combination of fewer shelter spaces at a time when more people are expected to face homelessness this winter is a crisis in the making.

“We will do all we can to keep everyone safe while Covid-19 is still at large. But what will happen to all those who would normally find a space in a shelter run by charities such as ours?”

She continued: “We think more needs to be done to analyse and balance the risk of sleeping inside shelters with sleeping outside in the freezing cold.”

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