Special measures for Marsh Lane

  • Emergency Housing Complex: operated and programmed by The Salvation Army (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

An emergency housing complex is to introduce special measures today to make sure its clients are not forced on to the streets over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Salvation Army said it had drawn up a scheme to provide round-the-clock accommodation at its Pembroke centre, where operating hours are between 5pm and 9am in normal times.

Beverly Daniels, the charity’s executive director for social services, explained: “What we’ve done is amended the programme so that the clients have 24-hour access.”

She said that users were scheduled to be told about the scheme last night and the plan meant that anyone staying at the Marsh Lane centre would be unable to leave then return, unless there were extreme circumstances.

Ms Daniels added: “This is an initiative to protect everybody from being out and about in the environment.

“If we allow two to go because they don’t want to be confined then they defy the whole purpose.”

She explained that a “pandemic plan” was prepared with the manager of the complex, which had about 25 residents yesterday with help from a community nurse.

Ms Daniels said that beds were rearranged to fit in with social-distancing guidelines and thermometers would be available for clients to check their temperatures if needed.

A cleaning schedule has also been established and laundry facilities will be made available.

She added: “We’ve even, this afternoon, gone out and got additional card games as well as board games.”

Staff will be redirected from other areas of the Salvation Army to work at the emergency housing complex during the day, with extra residential care workers hired “in some cases, for a couple of hours” to fill any gaps.

The plan was announced after a resident at the centre aired her fears for people who were unable to be there for nine hours at a time each day.

She said clients would be at greater risk from the coronavirus because they had nowhere to go between 8am and 5pm.

The 50-year-old told The Royal Gazette earlier yesterday: “I’m walking around the streets of Hamilton and people are arguing, fussing and fighting because they’re already being locked out of everywhere.

“Because everything is under lockdown, it’s like being in jail without being in jail and it’s tough.”

She added: “We are more likely to get the virus outside on the street in the nine hours out there than we would being in our rooms.”

The woman said later that she welcomed the plan to provide 24-hour accommodation. But she added: “It’s really about time.”

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said last Thursday that anyone who was not involved with essential services should be “at home and inside your premises”.

He added: “We need to make sure that people are out of harm’s way and that they are off the streets and that they are home.”

Mr Caines said then that an action plan was being developed to help some of the island’s most vulnerable people during the crisis, such as the homeless.

He added yesterday that “third-sector partners” had met and that Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, was the lead.

Mr Caines said: “As you can imagine there are a number of moving parts. We’re dealing with feeding elements, with housing elements and so we’re trying to have a complex plan that deals with a number of different elements in our community.”

He added that the plan will be made public when possible.