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Homeless people have nowhere to self-isolate - so let's set them up in empty offices

March 18, 2020 5:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

homelessnessIt's right that we do all we can to limit the spread of COVID-19. But some people don't have a home to stay in. The government needs to help them as a priority.

Being told to stay home is all well and good. But what about those who don't have a roof over their heads to self-isolate under?

There's no doubt that this is a deeply concerning time. I support all evidence-led efforts to minimise the impact of COVID-19. The models released this week make clear that self-isolation is a key intervention, but not everyone can self-isolate. There are reports that the police might get the power to arrest anyone with the virus found outside. I'm really worried as to what this would mean to people who have nowhere else to go - Britain's homeless.

These powers must only be used as a last resort. The idea of police arresting homeless people who have done nothing wrong and placing them in detention centres is abhorrent. I have already been leading the charge to scrap the Vagrancy Act - as Liberals, we cannot stand by and watch another law that has the potential for penalising people due to circumstances out of their control pass unnoticed.

Coronavirus doesn't mean we should arrest people for the crime of having nowhere else to sleep

These are vulnerable people. Many homeless people struggle with mental health or addiction issues. They must be given the opportunity to self-isolate with dignity. The government could set up services in empty buildings and offices.

Coronavirus is serious - but it doesn't mean we should arrest people for the crime of having nowhere else to sleep. The government must show compassion. Homelessness is a result of the failure of politicians, not homeless people.

We have a duty of care to those who are homeless. Criminalising these people will only worsen this pandemic, not mitigate it. The Government must do all it can to protect the homeless.