Edinburgh Council in talks to use student halls to house the homeless

One way in which Edinburgh is coming together during the coronavirus crisis

A new taskforce set up by Edinburgh City Council is considering using student halls to provide accommodation for the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic. They are also looking into how empty hotel rooms and self-contained flats could be used to provide a secure and suitable place to stay. Talks are already underway with these accommodation providers.

In cooperation with charities, the Additional Accommodation Needs Team are trying to put in place measures that would allow homeless people in Edinburgh to be able to self-isolate. Currently, this is often not possible as even those who are able to find shelter have to do so in shared temporary accommodation like hostels and B&Bs, or by sofa-surfing. The council considers rough sleepers to be a “very vulnerable group to the virus” so is pursuing these options “actively and urgently”.

Many student halls rooms are likely to be vacant with some students returning home earlier than planned because of the cancellation of face-to-face uni teaching. Plus, it is possible they will be empty through the summer as they are usually rented out for tourists and Fringe performers. It is currently unknown whether the Edinburgh Festival (including the Fringe) will go ahead this summer.

The council will also be supplementing these measures with care packages to ensure that some of Edinburgh’s most at-risk residents are looked after.

In these unprecedented times, it seems Edinburgh’s residents are rallying round to help each other out. Alongside these efforts by the council, the Meadows Share is flooded with offers of help. Additionally, nearly 9000 people have joined the Coronavirus Volunteering Edinburgh Facebook group to help out their neighbours in-need with tasks like cooking meals, going to the supermarket and having a friendly chat over the phone.

Deputy Council Leader, Cammy Day, said combined efforts by the taskforce, voluntary organisations and the private sector would help Edinburgh come together during national lockdown. He said: “It’s not going to be easy but we are all in this together. Hotels and other organisations are already responding to our call and we’re urgently looking at how we join forces as a city at this very difficult time.”