The director of a homelessness charity who run a night shelter in Salford is not hopeful that shelters will be able to reopen safely in time for winter. 

Terry Durose, Director at Manchester City Mission spoke to Salford Now about the implications the Covid-19 pandemic has had for dormitory-style night shelters and for homeless people as winter approaches.

Mr Durose said: “We have been waiting since July for advice. I don’t personally hold out a lot of hope that dormitory-style shelters will get the go ahead because they are concerned about shared breathing space, toilet ratios and social distancing.

Charities who provide night shelters have today finally received guidance from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) regarding being able to accommodate homeless people again.

Manchester City Mission run Narrowgate, a 30-bed communal shelter in Salford that has not been able to provide accommodation since the lockdown in March.

He continued: “We’re aware of the fact there are homeless people on the street again but winter is on its way. Although Covid-19 is very serious, we hope that people start to see that there are other threats such as pneumonia and hypothermia.

“We are trying to understand what all that [the guidance released] means. It’s not an easy read. There’s regulations that may make it impossible for some organisations and charities to follow to be dead honest.

“They’re trying to place the emphasis on repurposing dormitory shelters into individual spaces. I’m not entirely convinced that’s going to be feasible in a lot of cases because of the reduced capacity. We’re trying to process it even as we speak.”

Based on official guidance from MHCLG, night shelters should look to provide self-contained accommodation options. They state that homeless people should be provided with individual rooms and washing facilities to protect against Covid-19.

The guidance states that local authorities must consider whether the risk of people sleeping rough in their area is so great that it requires a night shelter to open. They are encouraging more Covid-19 safe options such as self-contained accommodation.

Narrowgate’s 30-bed dormitory. (cc: George Carden)

For Narrowgate to reopen, they would either have to adjust their 30-bed dormitory to be able ensure guests can be ‘self-contained’. The other option would be to open the dormitory with the approval of local authorities and with Covid-19 safety measures in place to protect rough sleepers’ health and lives such as in extremely cold weather. However, this is deemed to be a “last resort.”

Mr Durose continued: “MHCLG have tried to cover all the bases. It’s obviously not been a simple task for them because they have been trying to hit a moving target with a situation developing before their eyes. I think they have done a good job of trying to cover everything from their point-of-view.

“We have just got to figure out whether or not we can do it and if there’s a need to do it, that’s the other side.”

Despite being unable to provide shelter to people during the pandemic, Manchester City Mission have still done their upmost to provide support for homeless people with a support hub during the day at Narrowgate. The support hub aims to teach valuable life skills as well as support for social isolation.

Narrowgate is currently trying to work out if they can accommodate rough sleepers again. Picture from 2019. (cc: George Carden)

Communities Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “As we approach winter, we are focusing on the best way to protect rough sleepers from the cold weather and coronavirus.

“The funding and guidance I’m announcing today will mean that working with councils and community groups, some of the most vulnerable people in society are given support and a safe place to stay this winter.”

What other places in Salford are doing to ensure a bed for rough sleepers.

Emmaus in Salford opened their ‘people pods’ with the help of Salford Council. These pods offer an individual space for rough sleepers during the pandemic.

Rachel Richardson, Community Director at Emmaus Salford, said: “A safe space to sleep is so important for people who are homeless, vulnerable and often very anxious about their situation. Our on-site pods are helping people take their first step out of homelessness and engage with the support services they need.

“We are pleased to be working with many partners across Salford to support people in their time of need. The pods complement our existing offer here at Emmaus Salford and we hope to help many more people on their journey out of homelessness.”

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