Council briefing on COVID-19 and the homeless community

19 March 2020 

Cheshire West and Chester Council has produced a briefing about its planned response to support homeless people and rough sleepers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The briefing draws together all of the latest advice from Public Health England, as well as information from government on maintaining hostel services and supporting people who become ill.

Councillor Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Growth said:

“These are unprecedented times and the Council is committed to working with our partners to ensure vulnerable people, including those who are homeless and rough sleeping, are supported.

“Today’s briefing document outlines the Council’s four part response, which aims to give the public confidence that the Council, alongside its commissioned services, its partners in local health services, and the voluntary and charity groups we work with through Outside In, are doing everything we can to maintain support and provide up to date information and advice to our homeless community.

“Clearly this is an emerging situation and our services will have to be flexible in trying to adapt to potential challenges of illness in our staff, volunteers and service users. New procedures around hand hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation have been developed, and contingency planning is underway to make sure our services can be staffed at the height of the outbreak.”

The Council’s four-part response is called “Supporting people in our Borough who are sleeping rough or are temporarily housed during the COVID-19 pandemic” - it includes:
  1. Information sharing – keeping our services and network of support groups up to date with the latest information from Public Health England and any challenges we face.
  2. Support for service users who might have Coronavirus – clear guidelines for actions services users can take if they become ill or are likely to have come into contact with others who have Coronavirus.
  3. Service and procedure changes – an update on the procedural changes we have made to delay and/or mitigate for the impact of Coronavirus on our homeless community, including contingency planning for staff absences and the peak of the pandemic.
  4. How can community groups and volunteers help – information on how the public can support efforts to help the homeless community during the pandemic.
For more information on the Council’s response to Coronavirus, please visit the Council's website.

Cheshire West and Chester Council briefing: Supporting people in our borough who are sleeping rough or who are temporarily housed during the COVID-19 pandemic 

The Council and its partners are committed to ensuring all vulnerable people, including those who are homeless and sleeping rough are supported during this difficult time.
Our approach is to work together with the community to inform and support people. We are following Public Health England advice and recognise that this is an emerging situation where things are changing rapidly.
We will have to respond to changes to government policy, local issues and new challenges as they arise, whilst factoring existing pressures on the system and the impact that the virus could have on staffing levels in commissioned services and West Cheshire Homes.
Information sharing:
  • Homelessness services will continue to inform people who are sleeping rough about the virus, its symptoms and risk factors.
  • These services will reinforce the need for good hygiene, including regular hand washing.
  • People who are sleeping rough should follow the same guidelines around social distancing, hand washing and hygiene as the housed population wherever possible.
  • The symptoms that homeless people should look out for include feeling like they have a high temperature, or a new and persistent cough.
  • We encourage all community, volunteer and faith groups to share this information too.
Support for service users who might have Coronavirus:
  • If a resident in supported or shared accommodation becomes unwell, they can notify staff and stay in their room, following the standard self-isolation guidelines.  The current guidance for people living in a shared room or property is that all residents should isolate for 14 days.
  • If someone becomes unwell in the Hamilton House Hub or the Harold Tomlins Day Centre, and they do not have a home or room in which to self-isolate, they will be isolated temporarily in an area of the building and staff will contact West Cheshire Homes.
  • If someone sleeping rough in Cheshire West and Chester is unwell, they should telephone West Cheshire Homes and a course of action in each case will be considered based on the needs of the individual, in partnership with other services where appropriate.
  • The homeless GP service at St Werburgh’s is available to advise organisations and individuals, however anyone with virus symptoms is advised not to attend the surgery.
  • If someone needs medical treatment or hospitalisation, they should contact NHS 111.
Service and procedure changes:
  • New processes have been put in place at the Hamilton House Hub and the Harold Tomlins Day Centre to help service users with maintaining hand hygiene and some local charities are distributing hand wash.
  • All services are continuing to operate with as little disruption as possible, however there are some planned reductions in 1-2-1 contact in order to minimise staff infection and ensure these services can continue to operate throughout the pandemic. These services include Westminster Drugs Project and West Cheshire Homes. Phone advice for these services remains available every weekday.
  • Hostels and day centres will not close, unless directed to do so by Public Health England or the government. New policies have been put in place to frequently clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces.
  • Contingency planning is underway to make sure services can be staffed at the height of the outbreak.
  • In order to ensure there continues to be a supply of emergency accommodation, we will create vacancies in current temporary and supported housing to provide emergency accommodation in the future. We are also talking to housing providers regarding using vacant and mothballed properties in an emergency and exploring the potential for using private providers including hotels.
How can community groups and volunteers help?

If any organisation or individual wishes to offer support to people who are homeless, vulnerable or economically impacted by Coronavirus then they can register to support the co-ordinated community response. There is more information about this on the council’s website. Additionally, please consider contacting Outside In for information on other local initiatives: Twitter: @Outside96810991 Facebook: /OutsideInChester

We recommend all community groups consider precautions for the spread of Coronavirus to the homeless community, especially as part of food and other support. If possible, it would be advisable to implement social distancing and to discourage the gathering of larger groups wherever possible.

Links to other important and useful information:

Public: Sector specific guidance:

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