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Urgent action to protect city’s homeless from coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 10:29 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:50 12 March 2020

Norfolk councils and charities are scrambling to house rough sleepers, after a national edict to get the homeless off the streets. Picture: Getty

Norfolk councils and charities are scrambling to house rough sleepers, after a national edict to get the homeless off the streets. Picture: Getty

© Getty Images

Charity staff are taking urgent action to protect vulnerable homeless people from the threat of coronavirus.

St Martins in Norwich has increased infection control among the community, including handing out hand sanitiser and tissues - and conducting temperature tests to monitor people's health.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins, said many of the people who were homeless fell into the 'vulnerable' category because of underlying health issues.

The scheme is being delivered by St Martins Housing Trust. Pictured is chief executive Dr Jan Sheldon. Picture: St MartinsThe scheme is being delivered by St Martins Housing Trust. Pictured is chief executive Dr Jan Sheldon. Picture: St Martins

She said: 'We have got a lot of plans in place. We are treating the situation very seriously. We are majoring on prevention and containment.

'The people we support are vulnerable as many have underlying health conditions. We are being calm and reassuring and doing everything we can to support them.'

MORE: East of England reaches 32 cases as UK sees largest single-day rise in coronavirus cases

St Martins looks after 150 people at any one time in its different accommodation units, ranging from hostels, residential homes, sheltered housing and community homes.

It also cares for people living on the streets, who are not in accommodation, through the Pathways team which is led by St Martins and supported by six other organisations.

The team does daily checks on the city's rough sleepers and is checking their health and giving out hand sanitiser.

Dr Sheldon said St Martins was following guidelines from Homeless Link, which represents homeless organisations.

She said: 'We are making sure we are increasing infection control. We know that handwashing is the most effective method. As an organisation we have stopped any unnecessary work-related travel. As the risk rate ramps up nationally we are doing temperature tests.'

MORE: Plea from 'at risk' groups over coronavirus spread

The charity chief said that people being cared for in its accommodation were being provided with a hand sanitiser, tissues and antibacterial soap.

Cleaning is being ramped up at its various bases, supplies are being sought, and staff are being encouraged to regularly wash their hands and self-isolate if needed.

A Norwich City Council spokesman said: 'All councils are waiting for Public Health England's guidance for rough sleepers specifically relating to coronavirus.'

The average life expectancy of a man and woman living on the street is 47 and 43, according to Dr Sheldon.


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