Homeless people were left sleeping on the streets in Glasgow on Thursday night when a shelter had to close after a staff member and a service user tested positive for coronavirus, according to a head of a homeless charity in the city.
The head of Glasgow City Mission said he was given assurances that people would not be left without shelter, but understood some people with insecure immigration status or complex background issues were not accommodated.
Glasgow city council disputed the claim and said no vulnerable people were refused accommodation, but the Guardian understands that individuals who the council did not have a statutory duty to accommodate were not put up.
The council added that it had secured temporary accommodation so that homeless people in the city would be able to self-isolate.
Charles Maasz, CEO of Glasgow City Mission, tweeted on Thursday night:
He told the Guardian on Friday that he had been assured the council was making every effort to house all homeless people. “Sometimes a council may not have a legal obligation to house someone, but we all have a moral obligation to find a solution to that, which is a national conversation we have to have,” he said.
“We recognise that the council has a massive job on their hands and the current climate is hugely challenging. Under the current framework some people we consider vulnerable will present but the council won’t be able to house them. That is why we have to change the current framework in these extraordinary times and we want to work the council and other city partners to find a solution.”
He said the charity had been given assurances by Glasgow’s health and social care partnership that all homeless people would be housed, and was bitterly disappointed that this appeared not to be the case.
The centre, which is usually open between December and March and can accommodate up to 40 people, had to shut in light of social distancing guidance because guests slept in one room.
Thursday was to be its last night open, but after consulting with the Scottish government it closed during the day. In a statement on Thursday, the charity said: “There are a significant number of highly vulnerable persons in our city whose status provides no recourse to public funds who will also require immediate attention and accommodation. To wilfully continue to house people in shelter-style environments is, for us, to demonstrate contempt not compassion.
“To continue to allow mass sleeping in the face of advice to the contrary is to put vulnerable people at significant intentional risk, while on the face of it keeps many onlookers satisfied that ‘at least they are not out in the cold’. It is, in our mind, a case of out of sight is out of mind. We cannot do that in good conscience.”
Phil Wray, the head of projects at Glasgow City Mission, said people with no recourse to public funds were highly vulnerable. “We believe that it is a matter of public health that all individuals who are homeless, whether they have access to public funds or not, should be accommodated by the local authority. Last night this did not happen. We will continue to urge our partners in the HSCP to provide accommodation for all who are forced to sleep rough,” he said.
Peter Krykant, until recently a street outreach worker who plans to launch a safer injecting van, said: “I hope the government or the city council will step up today to house these people and give them the support that they need and a fighting chance against this virus,” he said. “If this virus hits this community, it will devastate it.”
A spokeswoman for Glasgow’s health and social care partnership said: “Glasgow city health and social care partnership has put in place contingency plans to reduce risk to vulnerable homeless people, many of whom have underlying health conditions.”
She added that it was working with key people in police, housing and health as well as third sector partners such as the Simon Community. “We’ve secured an array of temporary accommodation that will also people to self-isolate if necessary,” she said.
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