Covid-19: “Putting homeless people back on the streets on March 31 would be a health disaster”

Covid-19: “Putting homeless people back on the streets on March 31 would be a health disaster”

Solidarity actors alert not only to the risk of the virus spreading through people who are difficult to contain, but also to the need to protect a fragile population.

Florent Guéguen, director of the Federation of Solidarity Actors (FNARS), December 5, 2012 in Paris.  (© MARLENE AWAAD / MAXPPP)

“We are asking for an emergency measure which is the extension of the winter accommodation plan”, declared Florent Guéguen, director of the Federation of Solidarity Actors (FNARS) on Tuesday March 10 on franceinfo. He estimates that “The homeless population is one of the populations most exposed to [corona]virus” Covid-19 and that the end of the winter accommodation plan scheduled for March 31, “Would be a health catastrophe”.

franceinfo: Are there specific measures to protect the homeless to date?

Florent Guéguen:A large number of measures decided by the government do not apply to homeless people. They do not have access to basic hygiene measures, such as washing their hands, due to the lack of access to water and the absence of water points, especially in the camps. Containment measures are very difficult to implement: first there is a lack of accommodation places, then the centers are collective with several people per room and it is very difficult for associations to isolate a person who presents the symptoms of the virus. Added to this is the fact that a majority of centers do not have medical staff and therefore access to 15, which is very much in demand and very saturated today, is also very difficult. And that worries us a lot because the homeless population is one of the populations most exposed to the virus: we have a lot of sick people, often with chronic diseases, often also aging people who are therefore the most vulnerable in terms of the consequences of the virus. disease. But we are asking for an emergency measure which is the extension of the winter accommodation plan.

Precisely it must end in three weeks, what does that imply?As every year, the winter accommodation places are closing, which means returning people to the streets in the spring. However, this situation is already unacceptable in normal times. But there, the return to the street of people on March 31 would be a health disaster if the government does not decide to extend the accommodation places open for the winter since November 1. For the moment there are discussions with the Minister of Housing, with the General Directorate of Social Cohesion, there is a meeting with the Minister and the associations on Friday afternoon. We are waiting for a quick announcement because these places will close in 15 days. And it is imperative to protect this population.

We cannot accept that people are put back into the streets, or are not protected in accommodation centers in view of the health risk.

And the volunteers, the employees, are they protected?

It is very difficult for the employees and the volunteers for the reasons that I indicated, that is to say that, when there are cases detected in the structures, we often do not have the private spaces to isolate people. Access to the hospital is very difficult due to the overload of emergencies and treatment in camps, so there is a real fear of the virus developing in accommodation structures.