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Jon Sparkes @jon_sparkes Crisis Chief Executive

Solving homelessness would make London greater

TAKE ACTION: once you have read this, join us to call on the next Mayor of London to make tackling homelessness a priority.

London is a great city. Yet, for all the innovation, culture, diversity and commerce, it is hobbled by a chronic and worsening housing crisis which has led to levels of homelessness that have more in common with Dickens’ novels and Booth’s poverty maps than we should be comfortable to admit.  Last year 7,500 people were found sleeping rough on the city’s streets and tens of thousands more are homeless. 39% of homelessness in London is the result a private tenancy ending. And it is getting worse.

This May, Londoners go to the polls to elect a new Mayor and Greater London Assembly.  As the candidates finalise their manifestos, Crisis has joined with other leading homelessness charities to launch Lead London Home, a campaign calling on the new mayor, whoever wins, to make London a world leader at tackling homelessness.

Homelessness in London has been slashed before, due to well-planned services and political commitment, not least in the 1990s, when both Conservative and Labour governments made it a priority and introduced the rough sleeper’s initiative.  The current Mayor brought in successful policies like No Second Night Out, which has been rolled out across England.  However levels of homelessness continue to rise, including a 16% rise in rough sleeping last year alone.

The new Mayor will have a substantial budget, the power to commission services, bring together borough councils, shape the approach of the police, public health and other services and, as the most powerful directly elected British politician, represent the needs of London to Parliament.

In place of despair—or, more insidiously, ‘business as usual’—we therefore need candidates who are determined use all the power they have and commit to prevent and solve homelessness.

The good news is that we know what needs to be done. Lead London Home has brought together experts from across the homelessness sector in London to develop a detailed manifesto that shows exactly what the next Mayor should prioritise.  The key asks are to:

  • Lead a new drive to end rough sleeping, including providing at least 2000 homes and a Housing First programme for former rough sleepers.
  • Prioritise homelessness prevention and support calls for a new law so that no one can be turned away by councils to sleep on the streets.
  • Increase access to private rented sector housing and tenancy support for people on the lowest income.
  • End destitution by working across the European Union to find solutions to EU nationals sleeping on the streets.
  • Embed the needs of homeless people at the heart of London’s public services.
  • Fight for a better deal for London to mitigate the negative impact of welfare reform on people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness.

Lead London Home has already got the backing of more than 20 homelessness charities in the capital. It has also brought the issue to the candidates’ attention, for example with Sadiq Khan saying we have a “moral responsibility to tackle rough sleeping … [and its] root causes” and Zac Goldsmith setting out plans to improve homelessness prevention services.

But no candidate has yet gone far enough. To get the level of commitment that is so clearly needed we need your help.

Join the campaign by signing our petition and call on the candidates to step up their ambition and fully committed to solving homelessness in London: www.crisis.org.uk/leadlondonhome