HOMELESS charities in East Lancashire are appealing to the public to help rough sleepers and those at risk of losing their homes due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Big Issue North is appealing for donations from the public as vendors are unable to sell the magazine while Shelter Lancashire has been forced to close its Blackburn office but remains determined to provide much-needed advice.

According to recent figures there are 85 designated rough sleepers in Lancashire, 21 of them in Blackburn and Darwen and charities fear their inability to self-isolate will put them at risk.

A spokeswoman for Big Issue North said: “As of Monday, we have also made the incredibly difficult decision to cease all sale of Big Issue North on the street for the safety of our vendors, leaving our vendors without their source of income and usual support network."

She added: “We have set up a hardship fund for our vendors. This allows us to swiftly help homeless vendors into accommodation, as well as paying for vendors’ rent, bills and shopping in the event that they are unable to access a foodbank, or that rent and bills are not frozen by the government.”

Vendors are particularly at risk, given that many will have underlying health issues while other centres of support, including foodbanks have also been impacted.

The charity said: “A third of the people who sell Big Issue North have relied on a foodbank or soup kitchen at some point in order to survive, and this number may now increase, particularly as foodbanks can also provide toiletries and hygiene products, and those signed up to the Fuel Bank scheme can also offer vouchers for gas and electricity.”

Meanwhile, with over 4,000 Lancashire households classed as at risk of homelessness, Shelter warns renters face greater uncertainty.

Chief Executive Polly Neate said: “Shelter’s emergency helpline has seen a sharp rise in calls from people who are terrified of losing their job, being evicted from their home, and not being able to keep their family safe during the coronavirus crisis.

She added: “Getting expert help and advice during these unprecedented times is vital to prevent people losing their homes and protect those already grappling with homelessness.

“That’s why we’re urgently increasing the number of trained advisers working on our free national helpline and webchat services, so that we can answer as many calls for help as possible.”

Contact Big Issue North on 0161 848 2430 or by emailing fundraising@bigissueinthenorth.com.

Find more information from Shelter at england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/coronavirus