Homeless campaigners speak out at hustings event

Thursday, 7 April 2016 - 12:07pm

People with experience of homelessness put their questions to politicians at a hustings event in Southwark yesterday held by the Lead London Home campaign.

The panel included representatives from all five main parties in the London Mayoral election race, who each outlined their plans for tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.

Tom Copley (Lab) representing Sadiq Khan, and David Dean (Con), representing Zac Goldsmith, reaffirmed their candidate’s pledge for stronger homelessness prevention by adopting a ‘No First Night Out’ approach, one of the key campaign asks.

On the day of her party’s manifesto launch, Emily Davey (Lib Dem) pledged to get her teeth into London’s housing crisis, revealing the party’s commitment to several steps recommended in the Lead London Home’s manifesto.

Other panellists Shahrar Ali (Green) and David Kurten (UKIP) put forward points to address the homelessness crisis in the capital.

Last year over 7,500 people were seen sleeping rough in London by outreach teams - including 880 under-25s - a substantial rise on recent years. Meanwhile, the loss of a private tenancy is now the number one cause of homelessness in the capital, accounting for a shocking 39% of those accepted as homeless in London in 2014/15.

Homelessness is a devastating experience that takes a heavy toll on people’s lives. The average age of death for a homeless person is just 47 and they are 13 times more likely to be victims of violence. 

Campaigners wanted to know how candidates would put homeless people at the heart of all of London’s public services, strengthening support for those facing multiple problems. They also pushed panelists to comment on housing benefit cuts, homelessness legislation, how to best tackle destitution and the steps they would take to make private renting in London more secure.

Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link, said: “This hustings gave representatives from all the main political parties an opportunity to hear first-hand the very real concerns of their fellow citizens who are, or have been homeless. Homeless Link is pleased that so far in the published London Mayoral manifestos that there has been recognition of the issue of homelessness in the capital and a range of commitments made.

“However, all types of homelessness in London are on the rise, so whoever is elected as London Mayor will need to urgently follow up on their pledges with concrete action to ensure rough sleeping and homelessness are prevented and ended for good in London. Homeless Link is keen to work together with the new Mayor and the London Assembly to achieve this ambition.”

Howard Sinclair, CEO of St Mungo’s, said: “The message is clear. People who are homeless want the next Mayor of London to go much further to solve homelessness in the capital. The commitment from front runners to a No First Night Out scheme is a welcome step in the right direction. Rough sleeping in London is on the rise and it is more urgent than ever that we do more to prevent people ending up in this dangerous and harmful situation. But, the next Mayor must not lose sight of the need to step up support for people already stuck sleeping rough by taking the opportunity to build on existing initiatives like No Second Night Out and Housing First.”

Jon Sparkes CEO of Crisis, said: “The next Mayor has the power to make London a world leader in tackling and preventing homelessness, but effecting the change the capital so desperately needs requires an ambitious, overarching plan that addresses it in all its forms.

“The mayoral front runners have made some encouraging pledges, but they simply do not go far enough. With election day fast approaching, now is the time to adopt ideas like committing to create accommodation for former rough sleepers and doing more to support homeless people to rent privately.”  

Seyi Obakin, CEO of Centrepoint, said: "With the huge increase in rough sleeping amongst young people over recent years, now more than ever we need all our politicians to get behind plans to end youth homelessness in London.

"The many positive proposals that we heard from candidates at the hustings must be matched by their actions after polling day."

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