20 November 2019

Today the Evening Standard is launching its most ambitious campaign ever: a two-year commitment to tackle the homelessness epidemic in our city.

The reason why can be seen by all of us living in London. A walk down any major street in the capital now brings the sight of someone sleeping rough in a doorway or side alley.

Last night almost 9,000 people had nowhere but the pavement to live, double the figure only six years ago. And rough sleepers are only the most visible sign of this crisis.

In total some 170,000 people are now believed to be homeless in London.

Most of these have no choice but to grasp temporary respite at a hostel, seek a friend’s floor to rest on, or are reduced to travelling round and round on a night bus for warmth.

For the last six months we have worked with 23 of the capital’s frontline homeless charities to develop a strategy for how we can help address the homeless crisis in London.

The charities know that no one organisation can tackle this alone.

That is why they have joined together to form a united body, the London Homeless Collective, to co-ordinate activities and fundraising efforts. 

Alongside the London Homeless Collective we will begin by focusing on the plight of homeless women, who are often the most vulnerable of all those who are on the streets.

At present there is a need for a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week women-only homeless drop-in centre in central London. 

The Homeless Collective

999 Club; Albert Kennedy Trust; Barons Court Project; Caritas Anchor House; Centrepoint; Church Army; The Connection at St Martin’s; Depaul UK; Evolve Housing & Support; Glass Door Homeless Charity; Homeless Action in Barnet; Homeless Link; Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness; Look Ahead; New Horizon Youth Centre; Shelter; Single Homeless Project; Spear Housing Association Ltd; The Big Issue Foundation; Passage; The Salvation Army, West London Mission; YMCA England & Wales.

Our aim is to ensure there is a door in the heart of this city that, at any time of day or night, a woman finding herself with nowhere to go can walk through and access the help she requires.

Recently I visited the Marylebone Project, a drop-in centre for homeless women near Edgware Road. Due to lack of funding it can only welcome women for four hours a day. We are going to change that.

The women and staff spoke to me of the importance of a women’s-only service; of how too often it had been the threat posed by men that had made those it helps homeless in the first place.

They talked also of how, in the absence of a 24/7 centre, women had been reduced to sitting in McDonald’s or A&E through the night for safety.

One, Sophia, 48, from Pimlico, who at her lowest ebb of addiction found herself destitute, told me how it had been the Project that gave her the strength to start rebuilding her life.

“Sometimes I find myself at the gates of hell,” she said. “I did not realise until I came here that I could be loved.”

We want all those with no home in London to know that they too are loved.

Turning the Marylebone Project into the 24/7 women’s centre so urgently needed will be one of our first objectives. But it is only our first.

It is our objective to help support many vital services in the months to come, to help them collaborate more efficiently and to provide the support needed.

We know this is an ambitious initiative. But our campaign is a challenge to readers about what kind of city they want to live in. London in 2019 is one of the world’s greatest and most prosperous cities.

Yet tens of thousands of people do not have a safe place to sleep. We will campaign to raise awareness, raise money and change laws.

Those, whether in local government or business, contributing to the problem will be exposed. With your help, the Evening Standard will work towards ensuring that no one needs to worry where they will sleep tonight.

To this end I am pleased that this paper, along with The Independent, is now launching The Homeless Fund to help people who find themselves in dire straits in this city, which I am proud to call home.

This year’s Christmas campaign is for The Homeless Fund, which will finance desperately needed services. The campaign will highlight the worst instances of homelessness globally, with money raised going to help homeless projects in London.

Source: Evening Standard