Hotels and student flats used to house homeless people

Charities and voluntary groups are ramping up efforts to support vulnerable people during the Covid-19 crisis.

Hotels and student flats are being repurposed as homeless accommodation to help protect rough sleepers from the spread of coronavirus.

In contrast to many sectors which are scaling down their operations, charities and voluntary groups across the country are ramping up their efforts to support some of the most vulnerable in society.

One of the priorities has been sourcing extra accommodation to make sure that homeless people can also self-isolate.

Simon Community Scotland has sourced 40-bed hotels in Edinburgh and Glasgow to help meet demand.

Tricia Imrie, the charity’s assistant director for development, told STV News the Edinburgh accommodation has already had to be expanded because of the numbers of people needing help.

She added: “Once people are in that accommodation, we can do our utmost to look at the longer term solution, and help people move away from homelessness altogether.”

Meanwhile Social Bite has redeployed staff from its cafes – which closed last week amid the restrictions – to make sandwiches for food parcels.

The bags are being distributed to around 3500 people in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen every day, with support from more than 50 charities and organisations.

There has been such high take-up that founder Josh Littlejohn hopes to expand the service to Inverness and Dundee.

He said: “Thousands of people all over Scotland are in the most vulnerable situations – so that’s homeless people who obviously have absolutely no option to self-isolate, who can’t stock up supplies in their cupboards. But it’s also other people that are vulnerable –  families who are relying on free school meals, or thousands who have lost their jobs.”

‘Thousands of people all over Scotland are in the most vulnerable situations – so that’s homeless people who obviously have absolutely no option to self-isolate, who can’t stock up supplies in their cupboards.’

Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn

In Edinburgh, a dedicated team has been set up to help increase the number of safe places for homeless people to stay.

City of Edinburgh Council leader Adam McVey said: “We’ll be exploring all options to make sure our most vulnerable families and residents can still get the help they need while following the Scottish Government’s clear instructions.

“This is clearly a very challenging time for our teams and our city so I’m pleased we’ve had a very positive response from the private sector to our appeal for extra accommodation.

“I’m grateful too for the incredible sacrifice and dedication of Edinburgh’s key workers who continue to do their jobs, day and night, to keep our essential homelessness and health services running and our people protected, as far as they can.”

Social Bite food parcels for the homelessSTV

Mhairi Hunter, Glasgow’s city convener for health and social care, said: “Over the past fortnight, Glasgow’s Health & Social Care Partnership have been focused on securing additional emergency accommodation for those who require it.

“This has included several hotels in the city and ensures that all of those whom we have a responsibility to assist, can self-isolate where necessary in accordance with the official Covid-19 guidance.

“Additional funding was provided by the Scottish Government to offer accommodation to rough sleepers, whom our street team liaise with daily.”

Aberdeen City Council is continuing to provide support for homeless people but trying to reduce face-to-face contact as much as possible.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s largest housing, care and property-management firm Wheatley Group is to make empty homes available to local authorities as temporary accommodation for the homeless.

The Scottish Government previously announced a £50m well-being fund to help those who work with people who may be worst affected by the crisis, including rough sleepers.

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