Will Forster

Lib Dem Councillor for South Woking and Leader of the Lib Dems on Surrey County Council Learn more

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The Government should not forget about the homeless in the pandemic

by willforster on 26 January, 2021

The York Road Project and I have written to the Government calling for those working with homeless people to be treated as a priority group in the coronavirus vaccination programme.

Several years ago when I served as Mayor of Woking, I chose the York Road Project, as my mayoral charity.  The invaluable work they do has always been close to my heart and I was delighted to help raise much-needed funds for them.  However, they still need support.

Since the start of the covid pandemic, the Project have had to move from their small premises into the HG Wells Conference Centre and its adjoining hotel to meet the Government guidelines on social distancing.

Within a few weeks their numbers trebled, and they were supporting over 40 individual clients with a multitude of support needs and health concerns such as asthma, COPD and heart conditions.  The York Road Project has remained open throughout the pandemic, working with some of the most vulnerable people in society – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.

For much of the pandemic, the Project was fortunate not to have any coronavirus positive cases – but this changed just before Christmas.  Several frontline workers had positive tests and had to self-isolate, one of their clients become symptomatic and they had to self-isolate in their room with staff bringing meals and supplies to their door daily.

Just as residents of care homes are at higher clinical risk of severe disease, so are those in homeless hostels.  Staff at the York Road Project and others who work with homeless people across the country are therefore at increased personal risk of exposure to infection with covid and of transmitting that infection.

That is why the the Project and I have written to the Government to prioritise frontline homelessness staff.  The Government should not forget about vulnerable homeless people and those that work with them in their vaccination plans.

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