Preston's rough sleepers to be offered accommodation in push for vaccination

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People sleeping rough in Preston will be offered accommodation as part of a drive to increase vaccination rates amongst the city’s homeless – and help them get off the streets in the longer term.

Preston City Council has been given £115,000 in government funding for the combined shelter and vaccine scheme, which will be reminiscent of the “Everyone In” initiative rolled out nationwide at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. That saw rough sleepers in places like Preston offered a range of accommodation in an attempt to ensure nobody was left without a roof over their head as the pandemic took hold.

The latest programme has been prompted by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant – and in recognition of the fact that vaccination rates amongst those sleeping rough are low.

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The authority has been handed just over £102,000 to provide immediate shelter for the homeless to reduce the risk of them contracting Covid from being on the street – and to act as a launching pad for a co-ordinated vaccination effort to give them better all-round protection.

More than £115,000 has been allocated to help Preston's homeless get shelter - and their jabsMore than £115,000 has been allocated to help Preston's homeless get shelter - and their jabs
More than £115,000 has been allocated to help Preston's homeless get shelter - and their jabs

At a meeting of the city council’s cabinet, members agreed to accept the funding, which will be used to secure self-contained accommodation and to block book Purple Roomz facilities. Crucially, the cash will also fund so-called “move on” residential options which it is hoped will provide people with more permanent stability.

Meanwhile, just over £13,000 has been earmarked specifically to work with the NHS to ensure that the individuals identified for accommodation do get fully vaccinated – a process which currently takes five months from first jab to booster.

That will involve discussing reasons for vaccine hesitancy amongst those who are reluctant to have their jabs, as well as a planned “awareness day” and incentives to encourage vaccine uptake. Other agencies will also be involved, including substance misuse and mental health services.

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After the meeting, Cllr Nweeda Khan, Preston City Council’s cabinet member for communities and social justice, said it was the authority’s “duty to protect all residents of Preston”.

She added: “Providing access to self-contained accommodation, for those sleeping rough, has been recognised throughout the pandemic as one of the most immediate ways to prevent transmission of Covid-19. By increasing access to hotels and emergency provisions where appropriate and by funding ‘move-on’ options for those ready for more stability, we’re helping on the frontline where it’s needed most.

“It’s recognised that supporting vaccine uptake will not always be straightforward and some of the individuals will be vaccine hesitant. However, the evidence is clear that full vaccination is the most effective barrier from the dangers of COVID-19.

“This funding will help with transportation to vaccination sites along with awareness raising and myth busting sessions. We continue to work with partners and health colleagues so walk-in sites are available where this vulnerable cohort can attend, with or without support staff when they are ready.”

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