Volunteer groups in Kingston are coordinating their efforts to tackle the coronavirus and support some of the borough's most vulnerable residents.

Without accomodation or guaranteed access to sanitation, rough sleepers are particularly at risk during the Covid-19 epidemic.

Kingston Churches Action on Homeless (KCAH) are one of the groups leading the borough's efforts to help the homeless get the food and shelter they need as the UK and the borough wrestle with the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Kingston Council (RBK)'s new Leader Caroline Kerr suggested there were up to 30,000 people in the borough who needed food support during the crisis.

One of the ways KCAH and others are addressing that is through an emergency food appeal.

This has been set it up alongside other faith based groups and RBK's umbrella group Kingston Stronger Together.

"The emergency food appeal came about to try and create a coordinated response between (RBK) and the voluntary sector," KCAH's Operational Director Matt Hatton told the Comet.

"Voices of Hope have taken that on directly. We're trying to get everybody to donate to them so that they can take care of delivering to our accomodation projects or getting food to our night shelters, plus vulnerable residents.

"It's about trying to get everybody to work together," he added.

Indeed, deepening cooperation between different groups and RBK in the borough is crucial for helping vulnerable people during the crisis more generally.

"The same applies to volunteer appeals. A number of neighbourhood groups have already poppped up and that's been fantastic for the community," Matt pointed out.

Meanwhile, the borough's homeless need shelter more than ever.

KCAH have won awards for their Night Shelther programme that helps give rough sleepers a place to stay during the coldest months of the year.

New approaches have been necessary to ensure it keeps those who need it as safe as possible amid Covid-19, with the typical church spaces not big enough to guarantee social distancing for everyone sheltering there.

Coordinating with RBK, Queen Mary Hall has been allocated for KCAH's to shelter rough sleepers with space between them to minimize the risk of coronavirus cross-infection.

Beyond that, these people need more permanent accomodation to self-isolate in a personal space and ideally contain the virus should they develop symptoms.

"There's a drive to get people using our Night Shelter project into Hotels, with the understanding that the shelter is not the best place for self isolation," Matt said.

"We don't want anyone to be forgotten. I'm working with someone tonight who is rough sleeping, he is really anxious about coronavirus and has his own support needs.

"His routine has been disrupted and those needs can't be addressed at the moment."

RBK are currently working with the Ministry of Housing to help find emergency accomodation for rough sleepers in the borough.

While the wheels are now turning on using hotels to accomodate rough sleepers, the logic of the epidemic, that makes speed the most important factor in tackling it, weighs heavily on those working on the borough's response.

"I think the machinery of anything that helps people in this way has been too slow. In an ideal world some of these measures would have happened a lot sooner," Matt said.