Since lockdown was announced, Bedford’s homeless charities and the borough council have been coordinating emergency accommodation for the town’s rough sleepers and hostel users.
All known rough sleepers have been offered accommodation in a combined effort between SMART CJS, Beds Borough Council and Kings Arms Project.
“ALL rough sleepers are being looked after, in the hotel or by outreach services including SMART CJS and Kings Arms,” said Lisa Harrison, SMART CJS area manager, homelessness and fundraising.
Local volunteers through the Councils’ community hub and via SMART CJS have also been helping out.
A Borough Council spokesperson said, “Following nationwide Government requirements to avoid using emergency shelter accommodation during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub is temporarily closed and the Nightshelter has reduced capacity to single rooms.
“To make sure that no-one needs to sleep rough during the current crisis the Council has block-booked 60 rooms at a local hotel.
“This means that accommodation is available to anyone at risk of sleeping rough that enables them to follow the social distancing rules and self-isolate if they need to.
“The hotel is being staffed 24/7 by hotel staff and support staff provided by organisations such as SMART and the Kings Arms Project working in partnership with the Council.
“In addition, people who have volunteered to help through the Community Hub are assisting.
“The safety of staff, volunteers, and the individuals being housed at the hotel is of utmost importance and in addition to working closely with Bedfordshire Police, the Council has placed security officers on duty at the hotel 24 hours a day.”
Anita McCallum, CEO of SMART CJS said, “Our teams are working tirelessly to keep Bedford’s homeless safe, supported and healthy throughout this challenging time and away from critical care units in the NHS.
“We know the local community in Bedford has always risen to a challenge and your town needs you more than ever.
“Now is an excellent opportunity to get involved and help our most vulnerable citizens, if you’re able to – so come and join us.”
“We are committed to making it a safe experience, minimising contact and with strict social distancing observed. PPE will be provided where needed – both for the protection of volunteers but also our homeless who often have underlying conditions.”