Make Eye Contact with the Homeless Says Barons Court Project Manager

Centre has had to close undermining the work done by the charity

Michael Angus working at the centre. Picture: Grahame Larter

The manager of a day centre for the homeless which had to take the agonising decision to shut to protect people’s health, has urged people to make eye contact with isolated homeless people if they spot them on the street.

Michael Angus runs the Barons Court Project which offers the homeless and people with mental health issues hot meals and showers, as well as a range of activities including art workshops and access to computers.

When the Local Democracy Reporting Service last visited, one guest said he thought the showers were the best in London.

But as more and more services closed, the centre saw more guests coming.

Mr Angus said they had to shut the building Hammersmith and Fulham Council gave the charity to keep people safe and made the decision before the official announcement closing pubs and bars.

The team bought mobile phones for anyone using the centre who needed one.

So far this week they have contacted 50 people to chat to them and offer support and will continue doing that as this crisis continues.

“We have many people asking for help. There’s little that we can do apart from support people emotionally on the phone and provide information,” said Mr Angus.

The Greater London Authority has now teamed up with the Intercontinental Hotels Group in the capital to provide 300 beds for rough sleepers – with possible plans for more.

The Baron’s Court Project team are sending tailored text messages to people who use their service to give them key information.

Michael Angus

Mr Angus has been asked by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to help arrange food for homeless people put up in hotels.

He said he was very concerned that coronavirus has overturned everything organisations which work with the homeless have been working towards, where hostels have felt that conditions were not safe to protect people from coronavirus.

“What we will head towards is everything we have been working against. We have worked against people being on the streets.”

He added: “People are talking about setting up showers on the streets because it’s not safe for people to come in. It’s a great worry.”

And he urged people if they spot rough sleepers to make eye contact and be kind, whilst observing social distancing.

“The most important thing is homeless people need someone to talk to them. It is isolating. Make eye contact, say “hi, how are you?” from a distance, just to make people feel human. The whole country is at a distance – that is really isolating. We want them to be self isolating and not be around people but not be so isolated.”

And he said unlike other times when people are discouraged from giving food to the homeless in case it is a disincentive to get off the streets, these are unprecedented times.

“If people are looking for food, right now please give them food,” he said.

To find out how you can volunteer with different organisations in the borough, visit the council’s website.

Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporter

March 26, 2020