Safeguarding homeless people from COVID-19

Dr Arif Rajpura
During the coronavirus pandemic, partners in Lancashire and South Cumbria worked together to provide housing and healthcare support to around 1,500 homeless people.

Colleagues from across housing, social care, health, other public sector and voluntary, community, social enterprise and faith sector organisations came together to safeguard rough sleepers and other vulnerable homeless people from COVID-19.

As the whole country prepared to go into lockdown and 2.2 million people were advised to shield from the coronavirus, the government issued guidance to councils to make arrangements for rough sleepers – known to be at a greater risk to the virus as they often have underlying health issues.

Dr Arif Rajpura, director of public Health for Blackpool Council, said: “Homelessness is not just about housing or bricks and mortar – it is about people and their health and social needs. By working together during this pandemic, we are now able to address the multiple needs of individuals, putting them at the centre, with services wrapped around them.

 

“A key success of the COVID-19 response has been the speed at which we’ve come together to respond to the housing, health and social care needs of homeless people and rough sleepers. We are committed to ensuring we address all of the needs of our homeless population, not just the need for short-term accommodation.”

The various councils across the region led on securing and funding accommodation, providing drug and alcohol treatment services, social care and support. Meanwhile, NHS organisations provided primary care, community services, urgent and emergency care, hospital discharge and mental health support.

Local voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector organisations provided shelters, hostels, outreach support and food banks. The Police and Fire services also supported by dropping in to reinforce positive behaviours and checking the safety of accommodation.

Across Lancashire and South Cumbria to date, more than 1,472 homeless people have been found temporary or emergency accommodation and more than 374 health assessments have taken place.

Andrew Bennett, executive director of commissioning, Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “We know that the number of people sleeping rough has been increasing in recent years, and people affected by homelessness die, on average, around 30 years earlier than the general population.

 

“It is clear that a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency approach to address underlying risk factors to physical and mental health is vital to improving health outcomes. In a future after COVID-19, we must not lose the progress we’ve made and the lessons we’ve learned whilst responding to this virus.”