There’s a small hotel on my road. A Bed & Breakfast. The old fashioned kind. In normal times, excited tourists stream in and out all year.
But times have changed. As COVID -19 engulfed our world, so industries shut down more or less overnight including hospitality and leisure.
This little hotel was shocked by the sudden emptiness; it’s facade seemed sad and neglected as the days and weeks went by.
But just last week, new life! The doors have now opened to a group of homeless women, providing a sanctuary of safe shelter, hot showers, protection from COVID-19 and fresh food.
In the midst of this crisis, it is apparent that the UK Government and local authorities have distributed previously unimaginable funds to quickly mobilise rough sleepers off the streets and into accommodation.
It poses the question, why has this not happened before? Always bottom of the pile; never enough funding for housing, or spaces that will accommodate.
My feeling is that this change has been a ‘panic’ reaction by Government and it concerns me greatly, once the crisis has ended, that people who are now in accommodation will be expected to return to the streets just as fast as they were taken off. This could have a devastating affect on the mental wellbeing of people concerned.
But now, we have a once in a generation opportunity to achieve something remarkable: we can end homelessness.
We can do this as a direct result of the public health approach driven by the COVID-19 emergency. It has been a huge change and achievement to move people out of homelessness.
Organisations such as Pathway, the Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health, and the LNNM (The London Network of Nurses and Midwives) are calling for this change to be made permanent; for government to continue the groundbreaking approach to housing and healthcare provision for people experiencing homelessness.
Admittedly, hotels like the B&B on my road, and thousands more across the UK will need to eventually resume their usual business of providing a service to tourists etc.
But maybe there can be a new scheme: I would call it ‘Rooms that Heal’
This scheme would make it mandatory (through Government funding) for every hotel across UK towns and cities, to offer one or more rooms on a permanent basis, to a homeless person, couple or family. Individual care coordination supported by multidisciplinary teams, as is provided now, will continue with an aim to find permanent homes.
This scheme could extend to private platforms such as Airbnb, who, could engage its hosts to offer subsidised or free accommodation to homeless people.
As an Airbnb host, I will commit to contacting the Airbnb Senior Management Team with this idea. I feel it my duty to follow through by offering a Room to Heal within my Airbnb accommodation.