There has been a shocking rise in homelessness in 2017 – both rough sleeping and hidden numbers. It is clear that nobody has a simple and sure-footed means of getting to grips with it, and the underlying poverty and deeper issues that lead to it. However, it is also clear that many people are trying. There is a focus on homelessness and a desire to break the cycle. We’re opening up The Big Issue to ideas. Introducing… The Big Issue Platform
The Big Issue Platform will be non-partisan and open to politicians, policy makers, business, third-sector leaders, readers and vendors. Anybody who has an idea that can be part of the solution – send it to us via Twitter @BigIssue, on Facebook, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to us: The Big Issue, 43 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 1HW.
Sadiq Khan – Mayor of London
Nowhere are the consequences of London’s housing crisis starker than on our streets, where thousands of people will feel they have no choice but to sleep rough in the capital this winter.
As millions of people across London gather to celebrate in the warmth and comfort with their family and loved ones, it is shocking that in one of the richest cities on earth, so many people will find themselves on the streets and at the mercy of the elements.
As Mayor, I am committed to doing everything in my power to help – as one person sleeping rough in our city will always be one too many.
Over the last week, it’s been heartening to see how many Londoners care passionately about this issue too. Since launching my ‘No one needs to sleep rough in London’ campaign just a few days ago, Londoners have been incredibly generous. This response is not only inspiring, but encouraging others to get involved. All the money raised will go directly to the London Homeless Charities Group – a coalition of 18 leading charities working to tackle rough sleeping. This includes The Big Issue Foundation, which has done a huge amount to help rough sleepers over the last two decades.
Halting the rise is just the first step. We need to ensure people have access to support from the outset
Our new campaign provides a single donation point and helps to ensure the money raised by Londoners goes to the charities best equipped to help those in need. We are also promoting StreetLink, a mobile phone app that enables members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services they need.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) December 28, 2017
We have all been in the difficult position of seeing someone sleeping rough who clearly needs help, but then not known the best way to ensure they get the necessary support. With the StreetLink app, anyone can do their bit by letting outreach services know where vulnerable people may be sleeping rough.
This campaign aims to build on the progress we have already made over the last year and a half. We are investing record sums, and by working with local councils and charities, we have managed to stem the rise in the number of people sleeping rough for the first time in a decade.
But effectively halting the rise is just the first step. The way to make a real impact is to ensure people have access to the support they need right from the outset. That is why I am also funding a new permanent hub for London’s first ever ‘No Second Night Out’ service, which is set to open in Hackney for first-time rough sleepers early next year.
I have also announced a new approach to support people sleeping rough during periods of severe weather.
I was hugely frustrated last year that a policy we inherited from the previous administration meant that we could only open our emergency shelters when three consecutive nights of sub-zero temperatures were forecast.
This was simply not good enough. So I have now changed our policy to make sure that City Hall shelters open every night when we have freezing temperatures, and I am really pleased that all 32 of our boroughs and the City of London have adopted the same policy.
There is no question that rough sleeping is a complex issue. There are many reasons why people end up sleeping on the streets – from mental health issues, to welfare cuts and family break-ups, to drug and alcohol addiction. This means that we also need the government to step up and play its part too. For if we really are to end rough sleeping for good, we need to tackle the long-term root causes and prevent people from falling into poverty in the first place – something that The Big Issue has rightly highlighted for many years.
Since launching this campaign, I have been overwhelmed by Londoners’ support. We certainly have a long way to go, but this is another positive step towards reducing the number of people who feel they have no other option but to sleep on our streets.
To find out more, and to get involved with the campaign, visit london.gov.uk/help-rough-sleepers
Leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, has also taken advantage of The Big Issue Platform to share her ideas about tackling rough sleeping and homelessness. Read her views here.