A VULNERABLE Irishman who is currently homeless on the streets of London has been failed by the local authority who have a duty to house him amid the coronavirus crisis, a charity has claimed.
The 58-year-old, who has physical and mental health conditions, making him particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, is a client of the Brent Irish Advisory Service (BIAS).
The organisation, which is now only able to offer a reduced support service to its clients, received a call from the man earlier this month asking for help.
Prior to the pandemic they would have immediately found him a bed at a hostel, however, with government guidelines around containing the virus meaning all such venues are now closed to new referrals, they were told he must be referred to Brent Council who have a duty to house him.
Yet, having flagged their vulnerable client’s case with the local authority on April 9, the council has yet to find him a place to stay, or even make contact with the man, and he continues to sleep rough in a park in Kilburn, north London.
“We are worried about him,” BIAS’ Advice Manager Katie Grant told The Irish Post.
“He calls us every day, about three times a day, and there is nothing we can do for him.
“It’s very hard and frustrating to take a call like that and not act on it straight away, like we usually would, but with hostels closed we can’t place him and we have been told we must refer him to Brent Council, who have, so far, done nothing for him.”
She explained: “We are worried for his health - he has mental health issues, he has previous trauma, he has been in prison, and from some of the voice messages he is leaving at night it sounds like he is possibly drinking.”
She added: “Last week he said he had run out of his medication, so we are concerned about his health, but he also doesn’t seem to understand the concept of the Covid-19 outbreak, so he is at risk of picking that up and also of putting others at risk if he does contract it.”
Ms Grant, who has flagged the man’s case with Brent Council on two occasions, claims she has also attempted to refer 13 of BIAS’ most vulnerable clients to the authority’s Brent Hubs department, which is currently acting as their coronavirus response centre.
Yet her calls to both an Urgent Support Line and a Hot Meals number to register those clients for these services have proved unsuccessful.
“The Urgent Support Line, when I eventually got through, was a wrong number, and the Hot Meals number was a voicemail system – so I left a message, but more than two weeks later I have yet to receive a response,” she revealed.
“That’s very worrying, as these are numbers the council has published and sent to residents and if a vulnerable person tries to get through but can’t, will they try again?”
BIAS, which was set up in 1978 to respond to the welfare needs of the borough’s Irish community, now works with some of its most at-risk members.
With the pandemic continuing to spread across London, and the council’s lack of response to their requests for assistance, BIAS is increasingly concerned for its clients.
A spokesperson confirmed: “Brent is sadly recording a high number of deaths from Covid-19, and Northwick Park Hospital has the third highest deaths in the UK.
“BIAS is extremely concerned about the lack of urgent support provided by Brent Council.”
Ms Grant added: “It’s very frustrating for us. It’s frustrating that we can’t help a client who is street homeless and vulnerable and that the council haven’t contacted him yet.
“It’s also frustrating that the emergency numbers that Brent Council have published are not working.
“We can’t afford for our vulnerable people in Brent – Irish or of any nationality - to fall through the net at a time like this.”
Although BIAS is a small team, and its offices are closed, they are still working hard to support their clients through the crisis – with director Mike McGing making daily food drops to those who are isolating and in need.
However, the charity fears that if their own services are reduced further and their clients are not being looked after through the borough-wide response service, they will have no one to care for them.
“We are a small team and we will keep contacting all our clients and doing the best we can for them,” Ms Grant adds.
“But we are afraid that our donations of food might stop, or that we might not have the ability to go out indefinitely if the lockdown extends and community groups are no longer allowed to go out.
“We have only got one person going out doing food deliveries now, and if that all has to stop what happens to our most vulnerable clients?
“We need them to be linked into the council service. They don’t have family and friends to help them.”
When contacted by The Irish Post, a Brent Council spokesperson said: “We’ve double checked all the phone numbers listed on the recent Covid 19 information leaflet and were able to reach all the services listed.
“We have provided help to the vulnerable people referred to us by the Brent Irish Advisory Service and have asked them for correct details of the four vulnerable people who we’ve not yet been able to reach yet.
“We will continue to reach out and do our utmost to ensure that every vulnerable person in the borough gets the support they need.”
Brent Council has also confirmed to The Irish Post that they have now made contact with BIAS’ homeless client and assessed his needs and are now working to ensure that he gets "the assistance he needs".
Can you support BIAS?
For the past three weeks, BIAS Director Mike McGing has been delivering food parcels to vulnerable Irish people in Brent, with the support of generous local Irish businesses. BIAS is grateful for any offer of support. If you can help, contact them on 0208 459 6655, or email [email protected]. You can also find them on Twitter @IrishinBrent.