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  1. ITV Report

Homeless in the West Country fear becoming the forgotten coronavirus victims

A homeless couple in Bath appeal for food and shelter help in light of coronavirus closures. Credit: ITV News

The coronavirus pandemic is infiltrating every part of society and the reality is beginning to grip the region's homeless, who have seen the usual safe havens close.

Their concerns include a lack of shelter, access to basic sanitation, fewer public donations now that the streets are empty, the availability of food.

Kory and Jess say that public donations have dried up and they can't access the basics. Credit: ITV News

We rely on public donations just to eat. We also rely on shops being open so that we can wash and go to the toilet. We have nowhere to go for a shower.

– Jess, homeless in Bath
This man says he's resigned to fasting. Credit: ITV News

It's all a bit worrying. They reckon it's best to fast when you've got a fever and haven't got a problem doing that because I haven't got any money and I haven't got any food.

– Anonymous homeless man, Exeter
This man has found help hard to find. Credit: ITV News

The soup runs are closed, the food banks are empty, everywhere you can normally get food for homeless people has shut down. There's literally nowhere you can get any help.

– Anonymous homeless man, Bath

In Exeter, the St Petrock's Centre, which provides local services to the homeless, had to shut its doors when staff showed signs of the illness.

St Petrock's centre has closed because staff showed coronavirus symptoms. Credit: ITV News

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The overriding challenge facing the authorities is to enable the homeless to practice social distancing and to isolate.

The Government has urged local councils to house all people sleeping rough by Sunday March 29, and to find alternative accommodation for those in hostels and night shelters in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In Bath and Torbay, the local councils have made an appeal for those with empty guest houses and hotels to consider offering rooms to the homeless.

Exeter City Council is just another that says it is doing all it can to alleviate the problem.

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Artspace Lifespace charity in Bristol has offered up one of its artist studios as accommodation for the homeless. Credit: ITV News

West Country charity PATH says that practicalities of social distancing measures make it difficult to carry out their work.

There are real challenges when you're trying to practice social distancing and minimise contact.

People need access to accommodation, they need to move in, to sign documents. There's a lot that we're all thinking through.

But we're really trying to rationalise and ask whether anything that seemed essential before is essential now.

– Mike Taylor, PATH