Sadiq Khan visits Big Issue-backed Change Please amid £7m rough sleeping fund

The London Mayor grabbed a coffee from a homeless barista as he unveiled extra funding to tackle homelessness in the English capital

London Mayor Sadiq Khan grabbed a coffee at a Big Issue-backed Change Please cart this morning as he unveiled an extra £7million to tackle rough sleeping in the English capital.

The extra funds are in addition to the £8.5 that City Hall plough into rough sleeping services and will aim to beef up immediate and long-term support with a new rapid response outreach team and expanding winter provision.

To mark the announcement, Khan visited Change Please on Monday morning, which has received £60,000 from the Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Innovation Fund as well as £50,000 from his Good Growth Fund.

The social enterprise trains homeless people as baristas on carts and in tube station locations across London, offering a sustainable pathway off the streets.

Founder Cemal Ezel’s firm has been a success story, thanks to support from Big Issue Invest, our social investment arm, growing from a single cart to having their coffee stocked on Sainsbury’s supermarket shelves across the country.

“Organisations like Change Please are doing a fantastic job helping homeless people to rebuild their lives, offering training, employment and support,” said Khan, while visiting a cart next to the Shard this morning. “It was great to meet the baristas today and hear how far they’ve come since sleeping on the streets, and the bright future they have now.”

DID YOU KNOW…

Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.

Ezel added: “It’s fantastic to have the support of the London Mayor – the Rough Sleeping Innovation Fund has been crucial in helping us grow our business so that we can employ more previously homeless baristas and change lives.”

Despite launching his campaign to end rough sleeping at the end of November, raising over £207,000 for charities tackling the issue so far, the recent official England rough sleeping stats made grim reading for Khan.

While overall figures dropped by two per cent, London’s count found that levels had increased by 13 per cent to count 1,283 rough sleepers on the city’s streets.

Sadiq Khan Change Please
Sadiq-Khan-Change-Please
Cemal Ezel (centre, suited) has grown Change Please with help from Big Issue Invest

Khan insists the increase in rough sleeping over the last few years is a “national disgrace”.

He said: “The truth is that we will never truly end homelessness unless the government fully invests in the services we need, and crucially until ministers stop ignoring the fact that their policies and cuts are making more people homeless in the first place.”

While Labour’s Khan was seeing Change Please’s work first-hand, seven MPs from his own party were announced their resignation to launch The Independent Group.

After Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and the rest declared themselves “politically homeless” and cited their disgust at anti-Semitism in Labour, Khan agreed and party members to “do much more to root out the evil” of the issue.

But was wary of making the same step. “This is a desperately sad day,” he said. “These seven MPs are all friends of mine. I served alongside them in Parliament.

“When the Labour Party splits it only leads to one outcome – a Tory government – and that means a hard Tory Brexit.”

Image: Mayor of London