Hotel staff homeless after losing jobs and getting no help from government

Many hospitality workers are reportedly sleeping rough after losing their jobs as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

The government says it has offered ‘safe accommodation’ to more than 90% of rough sleepers in England in order to give them space to self-isolate and stay clean as Covid-19 spreads.

However, hundreds of tents and cardboard box encampments remain in London, with many people newly homeless after losing jobs and receiving no support.

Many Britons have been furloughed through the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which awards workers 80% of their pay, or up to £2,500 a month. However, some with low-paid service sector jobs and zero-hour contracts have fallen through the cracks.

Adrian Potcki, 24, from Poland, used to work as a night cleaner for a bank but is currently living on the streets after being sacked and left no longer being able to pay for his flatshare in north London.

He told The Guardian he thinks the bank closed and did not need cleaning anymore, but the agency he was employed through simply told him the job was done.

He said: ‘I couldn’t pay the rent for my room. I tried to ask the landlord to give me time, but I couldn’t work it out with him… It’s a really tough time. I don’t feel safe.’

Brian Whiting, a volunteer with the organisation Under One Sky, told the newspaper he was worried for the deteriorating mental health of a recently sacked waitress called Katarina, 34, who is sleeping in the doorway of a cocktail bar.

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After beginning to believe she may have started taking Class A drugs, he reported her to a charity that connects homeless people to support services, but she is still on the streets.

The Guardian also spoke to a sacked chef de partie named Martin, 27, who has been advised five or six times by outreach workers that a room in a hotel would be made available to him – but is still waiting for the call and can’t find anywhere to charge his phone with cafes closed.

Jason Moyer-Lee, the general secretary of the Independent Workers of Great Britain Union, said low-paid service sector jobs with zero-hour contracts and agency workers were ‘extremely precarious’ even before the lockdown.

He said: ‘The fact that, despite the government schemes, some people are being driven into homelessness demonstrates the inadequacy of these schemes. This needs to be sorted now.’

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the government have pledged more than £10,000,000 towards providing homeless people with hotel accommodation during the pandemic.

Speaking at the government’s daily press conference earlier in April, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said he was ‘proud’ of the effort of councils to help vulnerable people in their areas, but acknowledged the government’s actions were not the end of rough sleeping.

He added: ‘And there is a great deal of work to be done and my departments and I will be at the heart of that.’

The government says it is taking ‘unprecedented action to support public services, businesses and individuals through this economic emergency’, with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme seeing around half a million employers apply for help to pay the wages of over four million furloughed jobs.

Rishi Sunak announced on April 17 that the furlough scheme would be extended from 28 February to 19 March, ‘providing support for thousands of extra people, whilst keeping the significant fraud risks under control’.

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