Londoners sleeping rough will be given vital protection from coronavirus as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with support from the Government, secured 300 hotel rooms in which they can self-isolate over the coming weeks.
The Mayor’s team has worked with Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to block-book the rooms in two London hotels for the next 12 weeks.
Sadiq Khan’s team is also working with black cab drivers, via hailing apps FreeNow and Gett, who have volunteered to help transport people between support services.
Over Friday and the weekend, as part of a trial period, rough sleepers who are already known to the homelessness charities supported by the Mayor will be moved to the rooms.
City Hall will then continue to work with a range of partners, including London’s boroughs and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to identify others sleeping rough and ensure everyone gets the support they need. The Mayor’s emergency response is being provided with the backing of the Government, which – with the Mayor – has provided funding to kickstart this work.
Rough sleepers are significantly more likely to have underlying health conditions – including respiratory problems – than the wider population.
They are also far less likely to be able to follow Public Health England advice, such as self-isolation, social distancing and handwashing. Much existing accommodation available to rough sleepers, while vitally important, is unsuitable for self-isolation.
The rooms are being provided at a substantially discounted rate. This forms part of the Mayor’s and the Government’s wider efforts to protect rough sleepers during this difficult time – his team will continue to work with IHG and other hotel operators to see if further such block-bookings will be possible as and when they are needed.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “The coronavirus outbreak affects everyone in London and we must do all we can to safeguard everyone’s health – not least those Londoners who face spending each night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets.
“Rough sleepers already face difficult and uncertain lives and I’m determined to do all I can to ensure they, along with all Londoners, are given the best protection possible.
“My heartfelt thanks go to InterContinental Hotels Group for stepping up and playing their part in helping protect rough sleepers during this difficult period.
“We are also very grateful to the black cab drivers from FreeNow and Gett who have offered to transport rough sleepers to these rooms, helping them to avoid using public transport.
“Together, as a city, we will come through this incredibly challenging period.”
Steve McNamara, General Secretary at Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: "London cabbies have always been there to help those in need, and this current crisis is no different. Black cabs are the right vehicles for this, designed to be easily cleaned and sterilised, with a partition separating passengers from drivers. I'm delighted so many black cab drivers have signed up, and that we are doing our bit to keep the most vulnerable people on our streets safe."
Karan Khanna, Managing Director, UK&I for InterContinental Hotels Group, said: “The current situation is unprecedented and people’s health and wellbeing must be the top priority. We are pleased to be working closely with the Mayor’s office and GLA to use our hotels to contribute to the recovery effort in London.”