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‘It’s not easy’: How members of Dundee’s homeless community have coped with Covid

Christopher Sinclair says he has been homeless since leaving prison.
Christopher Sinclair says he has been homeless since leaving prison.

Members of Dundee’s homeless community have labelled 2021 a “hard year” as they struggled to find support over Covid-19.

Some of those living on the street claim that a lack of services and unclear guidance on vaccinations have made their already difficult lives harder.

Challenges have included finding somewhere to self-isolate without having a permanent home, and being able to book jab appointments.

‘I’ve not heard anything from anybody about vaccines’

George Reilly, 44, says he has been struggling with addiction since he was just 14.

He claims that while he has a bedsit he can occasionally sleep in, he has no permanent residence.

He told The Courier: “I’ve not heard anything from anybody about vaccinations.

“I don’t mind standing in a queue and waiting but I don’t know what queue to stand in, where to stand, what time to stand. It’s not very clear.

George Reilly in Dundee city centre.

“It should worry me but I try to just blank it out and not worry about it.

“If it’s going to hit me, it’s going to hit me.”

George also claims to have seen some of Dundee’s homeless people fall ill from coronavirus.

He added: “I know people who were fit as hell just a few months back and then Covid’s hit them and in a matter of weeks they’re gone.”

‘There’s nowhere to self-isolate’

Christopher Sinclair, 33, has been in and out of prison for the past 16 years.

He says that since being released in November, he has been sleeping at a church in the city centre – as it has been “quite hard” to find somewhere to stay.

Christopher was given his first dose of the Covid vaccine while in prison, but has not had his second.

He said: “It’s hard when you’re homeless because there’s nowhere to self-isolate.

“When the whole place was on lockdown the police were trying to move you on but it’s like, ‘where are you moving me to? I’ve nowhere to go.’

“There’s no support. You go to court and get out and you’re back to this.”

However, some homeless people have been able to get vaccinations and Covid support thanks to local groups.

Support from homeless organisations

The Eagles Wings Trust says it has been able to help a number of people during the pandemic.

Founder Mike Cordiner said: “Ourselves and a few other organisations have been helping supply folk with testing kits and vaccine appointments.

“It has been a struggle for some people, but there are ways around not having an address.

“Temporary addresses are one way. You can get around it but it’s not easy.

Mike Cordiner of the Eagles Wings Trust.

“The biggest struggle for a lot of people has been the lack of support.

“Some of the guys that we see quite regularly, we’re their only face-to-face contacts, so when we can’t see them they gradually go downhill.

“A lot of drug and alcohol recovery groups were cancelled because we’ve only be able to do things outside.”

Low numbers have caught Covid

Despite some having a lack of support and protection, Mike says he has only been aware of a small number of homeless people catching the virus.

“That was one of the things that amazed me,” he added.

“Virtually none of the guys we work with tested positive – very few.

“Those who have, we’ve been able to help out a bit, give them a place to stay and drop off food.”

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