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16 March 2020


We have taken a considered view and decided to continue delivering our caseworker service for as long as is operationally possible and to keep our night shelters open until the final night on 5 April as planned, if this possible, albeit on a reduced basis and with precautions in place. This page details some of the changes we have made.

So that we can keep delivering our vital core shelter service, we made some difficult decisions on 16 March that slim down our service delivery to minimise the risks to all. These decisions are:

  • We will not be accepting any new guests into the shelters. Our waiting list is now closed, and all guests on the waiting list have been contacted.
  • We will not be accepting any guests on a “one night only” basis. Only guests who are currently on our shelter attendance list will be able to stay.
  • Starting from 16 March, we will not be providing a “dinner only” service. On 16 March, we will provide takeaway food to “dinner only” guests and a flyer informing them that there will be no dinner only service, including no takeaway food, for the remaining three weeks of our shelter season.

Please know we are keeping a constant watch on government guidance and adapting our precautionary and preventative measures.

Advice for Volunteer Coordinators

  • Volunteer Coordinators should appoint some deputies who could take over the coordinating role at the shelter if need be.
  • If you don’t have enough volunteers to operate, please let Megan know as soon as possible and we will aim to find some stand-in volunteers for you.
  • Please find additional relevant guidance below, updated on 16 March (note new sections on meals and protective equipment). Please note that volunteers are requested not to sit down to share meals with guests and other volunteers until further notice.

If you want to know more about what we are doing to keep our shelters safe, please also read:

Advice for Staff

COVID-19 Resources 

updated 13 March 2020

An open letter to all volunteers

Dear Volunteer:

In these uncertain times, providing shelter to our guests becomes increasingly important, and we are committed to doing everything we can to keep the shelters running until the final night on 5 April as planned. However, as the spread of coronavirus continues, we are mindful of the increased risk across Glass Door services, especially in our shelters. We are keeping a constant watch on government guidance and adapting our precautionary and preventative measures.  

In line with the latest government guidance, we are now advising that any volunteers who are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 -- because of age or because of underlying medical conditions -- consider carefully whether to attend a volunteer shift. While we appreciate your commitment to supporting guests who use Glass Door's shelters and other services, it is extra important for you to take actions (such as limiting your attendance at social and public events) to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease. 

Furthermore, I'd like to remind you of the government advice unveiled yesterday to stay at home for seven days if you have, however mild, a new continuous cough or higher temperature. 

Please speak to your volunteer coordinator or contact our offices if you have any questions or concerns. I'm sure your volunteer coordinator would appreciate hearing from you about how these guidelines affect your volunteering plans.  

We are continuing to call on the government to issue clearer guidance on their specific response to COVID-19 for homeless people, and specifically what they expect self-isolation to look like. We will keep you abreast of developments as we have more information.

Let’s all stay safe and well.
Best wishes,


Lucy Abraham | Chief Operating Officer

What Glass Door is Doing to Mitigate Risk from Coronavirus

1. Overview

The risk to the UK has been raised to "high". Furthermore, homeless people staying in night shelters are at increased risk of all viral infections due to their close proximity to others in the night shelter environment. The most important things you can do to minimise infection to yourself and others are:

  • follow the latest advice about whether to stay home (see letter from Lucy, above)

  • maintain good hygiene

  • make it easier for guests to maintain good hygiene

Please also note that anxiety about coronavirus can have a negative impact on individualsmental health and well-being so do look out for one another and our guests at this time.

2. Identifying potential risks

Know the symptoms

The main symptoms are:

  • cough,
  • high temperature,
  • shortness of breath.

Someone will not know the difference between cold and flu and COVID-19 unless they are tested.

Only people with symptoms can be tested (for test accuracy reasons), but people without symptoms could still be carrying the virus. It’s therefore important to ask people about other risk factors (see Key questions to ask everyone below).

Key questions everyone is being asked in the shelters:

1. Do you have a cough, high temperature (feeling hot to touch on the chest or tummy) or shortness of breath?

Yes to Q1:

Any volunteer or visitor who answers yesto Question 1 must not attend our services and should consult the government website for further instructions, including whether a call to NHS 111 is needed.

2. Have you lived with or had close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus?

Yes to Q2:

Any volunteer or visitor who answers yesto Question 2 must not attend our services and should consult the government website for further instructions, including whether a call to NHS 111 is needed.

note: the key questions above are available as a double-sided A5 laminated guide that should be found by the shelter entrance and volunteer sign-in sheets and asking all new guests and all volunteers and visitors daily, as soon as they arrive.

3. Preventing the spread of this virus

Facts are still emerging about the virus but it’s possibly transmitted by droplets in the air from coughing and sneezing, and by touching your face, nose and mouth.

The main action everyone should be taking in response to coronavirus is to regularly wash their hands for 20 seconds and cover their mouth with a disposable tissue when sneezing or coughing.

NHS advice

The NHS advises to follow general infection control measures:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, for 20 seconds use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away

  • Avoid contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

Practical things you can do

Good hygiene protects against all types of illnesses, not just COVID-19.

  • Ensure washrooms are supplied with antibacterial soap and paper towels
  • Make hand sanitising gels and tissues available to all
  • Clean tables with an antibacterial spray both before and after meals
  • Clean other surfaces with an antibacterial spray before preparing food
  • Remind guests to wash their hands before meals
  • Keep hand sanitising gel by the entrance and registration point
  • Put-up posters reminding people to wash their hands (such as the government issued NHS coronavirus public info A4 poster, copies of which should be on the vans)
  • In Glass Door night shelters, staff are spraying roll mats weekly and making sanitising spray available for guests to use on their mats daily

Shopping list

Glass Door are providing: antibacterial soap in bathrooms, tissues, paper towels, antibacterial cleaning sprays and 60%+ alcohol hand sanitising gel. If stocks allow, we will purchase some N95 masks a small number as we’re unlikely to need them and stocks are low for medical professionals who do.

Alcohol hand sanitising gels

Hand sanitising gels are most effective if they are above 60% alcohol content. If your service has guests with alcohol or substance misuse issues, use of these products should be supervised. Services may choose to use larger bottles for ease of monitoring their whereabouts, though these are in short supply.

Antibacterial products

Antibacterial products won’t work any better than regular cleaning and sanitising products against Covid-19 and other viruses, as they fight bacteria not viruses. However, antibacterial products are still a good choice for a service environment to prevent the spread of other kinds of illnesses.

4. How we ask the key questions

Volunteers and visitors

In Glass Door night shelters, all Volunteer Coordinators should be asking their volunteers the key questions (see Key questions to ask everyone section) by text or email before they attend each shelter shift. Volunteers should be asked again as soon as they arrive at the shelter. Shelter Managers should also remind volunteers about the key questions and hygiene standards during the volunteer briefing.

All other Glass Door volunteers should be asked the key questions by text or email from their supervisor before their shifts, whether they volunteer in our office, at Women’s Group or supporting the casework team.

Volunteers and visitors must NOT attend a Glass Door service if they have recently been to an area (category 1 or 2) with a serious outbreak or have reason to believe they may have the virus. See Key questions to ask everyone.


In Glass Door night shelters, all Shelter Managers will keep a laminated copy of the list of Key questions to ask everyone by the entrance to serve as a reminder to existing guests, and new guests will be directly asked the questions at the door, before they are admitted inside the shelter. An appropriate equivalent of this arrangement will be implemented for Women’s Group.

5. Protective equipment


Our main recommendation is regular, thorough hand washing. We have always carried disposable gloves on our vans so shelter volunteers are welcome to use these if they wish. If you choose to wear gloves, be careful not to touch your face and change gloves regularly.

Face masks

We will not be providing volunteers with face masks because these should only be used by symptomatic individuals or by those caring for symptomatic individuals in clinical settings. There is a shortage of these for the medical staff who need them so it is unhelpful for those who don’t need them to purchase them.

According to the World Health Organisation, healthy people should only use a face mask if they are caring (usually in a medical setting) for someone who has a suspected case of coronavirus. “Facemasks are not recommended as an effective means of preventing the spread of infection. They play an important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals, but there’s very little evidence of benefit from their use outside of these settings.” (source: gov.uk 16th March 2020). World Health Organization guide: When and how to use and dispose of face masks

Any volunteer who doesn’t feel comfortable volunteering at this time should not come.

6. Meals advice

We have disposable plates and cutlery available on all shelter vans, so we will move to using these instead of crockery that would need to be handled and washed. If your shelter is spacious, you may be able to space guests out a bit more than usual at the dinner table, but we appreciate that some venues are very tight and this will not be possible. Unfortunately we’re advising that volunteers do not sit and eat with guests at this time.

7. Our partner daytime drop-ins

Some of our partner daytime drop-ins are closed due to the virus. We will be keeping a list of those that are open and closed and will share with staff, partners and the public when available.

While drop-ins are closed, our caseworkers will continue to provide a service to our guests by meeting some of them in public spaces like cafes while this remains possible.