- March 11, 2020
- Posted by: Zahid Chauhan
- Category: Campaigns
At the heart of the British psyche is a desire to help others less fortunate than ourselves, particularly at times of crisis.
As a GP on the front line, I have been impressed by the reaction nationally in terms of preventing the rapid spread of the Coronavirus and putting into place robust contingency plans should the worst happen.
This, I am convinced, has reassured people from all walks of life, excluding the one group that are most vulnerable. Namely, those experiencing homelessness.
In 2018, I launched the Homeless-Friendly charity after seeing first-hand the horrendous physical, mental and dental health problems rough sleepers face.
Since then, that journey has afforded me the pleasure of meeting people experiencing homelessness, including veterans.
Sometimes denied essential health treatment (due to a misapprehension on behalf of surgeries that they cannot register a patient with no fixed address), rough sleepers have severely compromised immune systems, poor hygiene and coexist in close proximity. This is the perfect breeding ground for viruses to spread and cause serious illness and even death.
I ask that you consider bringing in special measures to help the homeless cope with the impact of the Coronavirus. We could empower drop-in centres and hostels to allow medics in to screen for the virus, or even follow the lead of local government in the London Borough of Islington and get health kits (containing items such as hand gel and information details for organisations that can help) distributed throughout the country.
It is of course important to remember that many rough sleepers have no access at all to telephones or internet connections for information, and this work must be done face-to-face or within organisations that rough sleepers visit. As a charity signposting homeless people to vital services to house and re-train them, we are prepared to offer our support to this initiative.
Aside from ensuring that this vulnerable group is protected from serious illness, this is a unique opportunity to remind them that someone within their society cares and that they are a part of our community and are valued.
I would remind you Prime Minister, that the average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is just 45 years-of-age. The fact is that the Coronavirus is causing most harm amongst those already living with ongoing health problems, so you can see how those experiencing homelessness are in mortal peril.
Please do all that you can to act, influence, encourage and cajole in support of those who need our care most.
Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE