05:01PM, Tuesday 31 March 2020
Slough Homeless Our Concern (SHOC) has closed its day centre until further notice in order to abide with new social distancing measures.
The charity has been helping rough sleepers in the town rebuild their lives and find employment since opening in December 1997.
But Mandy McGuire, head of day services, told the Express it is no longer possible for SHOC to provide services such as free hot meals from its base in Ragstone Road due to Government warnings over large gatherings.
She said: “We tried to continue providing our hot meals each day but with the new social distancing rules it has just proved impossible.”
Over the weekend, local authorities across the UK were instructed to find emergency accommodation for all rough sleepers within 48 hours.
Ms McGuire said she expected the change in lifestyle would be challenging for the town’s homeless community.
“It’s just really difficult because not everyone wants to come inside,” she said.
“It’s tough going from not having any responsibilities to having somewhere you have to stay caged up inside.”
SHOC staff are aiming to stay in contact with the homeless community by making regular phone calls as well as carrying out daily checks on the streets for any rough sleepers who remain outside.
Mandy added: “Since opening in December 1997 we’ve opened on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day so to close down has been quite traumatic.
“We just want everyone to stay safe and have an understanding of what’s going on.”
A spokeswoman for Slough Borough Council said more than 30 rough sleepers had been placed in accommodation to keep them safe from the COVID-19 threat before the government’s announcement at the weekend.
A statement added: “We have a task group looking at all the issues around housing and our outreach team continues to contact rough sleepers so we can get them off the streets and isolating for the duration of this crisis.”
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