The bottom of the bottom

“Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” says Boris, but what about those who don’t have a home where they can stay safe?

Coronavirus spread around China and its neighbouring countries, and although global pandemic experts warned that the virus would eventually reach the UK and other western societies, our government failed to introduce lockdown measures before the virus had spread all over the country.

Empty roundabout in what normally is one of the busiest areas of Bristol

Although according to our PM we have now passed the “peak” of the virus, the UK has now reached the highest death toll in Europe and the second highest in the world. Figures from the 5th of May show the UK has surpassed 32,000 deaths.

During these strange times the focus of the media tends to fall towards the battle our NHS workers are facing, over-whelmed hospitals and a lack of protective equipment and available tests for key workers.

Those on the streets have almost been forgotten about, but, what if there was a clap every Thursday to give hope to those still on the streets?

After announcing lockdown on the 23rd of March, the government promised that all those living on the streets would be put under a roof by the following weekend.

A popular pub/bar area deserted during lockdown

Now coming to the end of the 6th week of lockdown, homeless are still seen on the streets of Bristol as well as in many other cities across the UK.

Every week since the start of lockdown I have been cycling to the areas in and around town where most homelessness is seen normally. What I have found is that, yes, the majority have been put into temporary emergency accommodation, but some remain roofless.

Rough Sleeper wondering the empty streets of Bristol City Centre

So, what is the council here in Bristol doing to house those still on the streets.

After contacting the new emergency email established to try and house the homeless, a spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “Throughout the crisis we have worked around the clock to support Bristol’s most vulnerable people, including placing over 250 homeless in emergency accommodation to allow them to self-isolate.

“Homelessness is very complex and not everyone wants to move into accommodation, but we will continue supporting people in the best ways possible.

“We are continuing to work to support the people out of emergency accommodation and into suitable longer-term housing that meets their needs. We are also relying on the public reporting anyone they think may need our help through bristolstreetconcern@mungos.org and we would encourage them to do so.”

Speaking at a safe distance on the first day of lockdown, I had a chat with a homeless man, originally from Pakistan who had been to prison twice for different offences. He explained to me how because of his criminal records he couldn’t be housed and was still trying to contact the council to help him. He had two daughters who lived at home with his wife but who he couldn’t see.

I spoke to Ollie, a current volunteer at a foodbank in East Bristol, here is what he told me:

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