Concerns raised for homeless man recovering from COVID-19

North Herts Sanctuary. Picture: Danny Loo

North Herts Sanctuary. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Concerns have been raised for a COVID-19 patient who was discharged from hospital to temporary accommodation without bedding, heating or a cup to drink from. 

Feed Up Warm Up, which runs a drop-in for the homeless in Stevenage and Hitchin, received an email referral from North Herts District Council at 3.30pm last Thursday, and a telephone referral from adult social services at 5pm, regarding the man. 

Volunteers setting up clothing stands for the Feed Up Warm Up drop-in in Stevenage. Picture: Matt Po

Volunteers setting up clothing stands for the Feed Up Warm Up drop-in in Stevenage - pictured before the pandemic. - Credit: Matt Powell

They were told the man was discharged from Lister Hospital at 12.30pm and dropped to temporary accommodation by the ambulance service.

Founder Shane Cole told the Comet: "I received a referral from North Herts District Council to see if I could get pots and pans over to a client. 

"Later on that evening I got a call from adult social services informing me of the same client - a 66-year-old man who had been released from Lister with COVID."

The gentleman was previously being housed at North Herts Sanctuary in Hitchin, however he would not be able to return until he had self-isolated and recovered from the virus. 

Shane continued: "When I arrived, this gentleman had a single bed with no sheets, blankets, not even a cup to be able to get water to take his medication. There was no kettle and he was wearing the clothes he was discharged from hospital in. The flat was freezing as there was no working heating.

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"They've released him from hospital with coronavirus and other illnesses - he was struggling to breathe when I spoke to him, and had plastic bags over his feet as he was so cold.

"People need to know what is going on. The council, social services or the sanctuary could have given the man a meal, bedding, clothes, toiletries, whatever he needed.

"He's a 66-year-old man and that's how he's treated. These people are paid - we are completely run by volunteers, and went out to this man knowing he had COVID - risking our own lives to help him.

"They have failed him. He's more vulnerable due to his age and other underlying health conditions. They have got a duty of care. I was speechless - why is this allowed to happen?" 

Since the pandemic began, Feed Up Warm Up has been out and about helping the homeless that are still on the street, supporting struggling families who have been affected by the pandemic as well as continuing to run its weekly drop-in services in both Hitchin and Stevenage

A spokeswoman for Haven First, which manages North Herts Sanctuary, said: "The client in question was taken into hospital for care following a positive COVID-19 test.

"We are unfortunately unable to take him back to our Hitchin project until he tests negative due to the shared bathrooms on site.

"As soon as he tests negative it is our intention to move him back in and restart his support journey and in the meantime NHDC have put him into temporary accommodation where he can self-isolate.

"The gentleman in question was discharged from hospital on the evening of January 21, 2021 and can only have been in the temporary accommodation for a few hours before FUWU visited.

"I can only blame timing for the lack of provisions available to the gentleman when FUWU arrived.

"We have a dedicated 'Connect Services Team' for these exact circumstances, their job is to follow up with all of our ex-residents - although this gentleman isn't actually an ex-resident, just temporarily being housed off site until his negative test result -  to ensure they are safe and happy in their new accommodation.

"I have checked with the team and one of our support workers was scheduled to visit on January 22 - at which point they would have pinpointed the same lack of provisions as FUWU have flagged, and then would have provided them as a matter of urgency.

"I can confirm our team has gone round and provided as much as we can to make his temporary home comfortable."

NHDC deputy executive member for housing, Cllr Sean Prendergast, said: “We accommodate homeless people in short-term temporary housing every day on an emergency basis and have seen a large increase in requests for accommodation due to the pandemic, including those leaving places like hospitals or prison.

"We keep in touch with individuals placed in temporary accommodation and work closely with them, as well as specialist support agencies, as required, to make sure they are well supported.

"If any issues with temporary housing placements arise, we urge the individual to get in touch with us immediately so we can look into any issues and resolve them quickly.”

Feed Up Warm Up volunteers have a rota system in place to deliver hot healthy meals daily to the gentleman.

They have provided a heater, microwave, clothes, books, bedding, plates, and they ring him twice a day to check on his health and offer friendship while he is isolating.

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