Mayor of London Sadiq Khan - Image by Rehan Jamil from Flickr

London Mayor announces 800 new homes for rough sleepers

London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced £75 million of government funding for up to 800 new homes for rough sleepers last week.

The service provides rough sleepers with accommodation during some of the coldest weeks of the year, along with support to end their homelessness for good, according to a City Hall press release

The funding was made available through the Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme (SHAP) and will deliver homes and support for young homeless people and rough sleepers with complex mental health or substance dependency issues as these are two groups of Londoners whose needs are currently not being fully met. 

Khan said: “Since becoming Mayor, I’ve made it a personal priority to tackle rough sleeping and we’ve helped a record 13,500 people off the streets through our support services as we work to build a fairer London for all.

“We can’t do this alone, and to end rough sleeping in our capital, particularly amid the cost of living crisis, the Government must intervene to prevent the circumstances that lead to people sleeping rough before thousands more are forced to face a winter on the streets,” he added. 

The project is in partnership with homeless charities Crisis and St Mungo’s to coordinate a successful extension of Crisis at Christmas, an event run by the charity Crisis which provides food, warmth and companionship to homeless people in London over the Christmas period until shortly after the new year. 

The extension by City Hall means guests have somewhere to stay until mid-January, while receiving support from Crisis and St Mungo’s to end their homelessness for good.

Director of Rough Sleeping and Migrants at St Mungo’s Petra Salva OBE said: “The recent cold snap exemplifies why the extension of this project is needed, freezing temperatures can kill and this will ensure people have somewhere safe and warm to stay. 

“It’s equally important that people can access the right support to help them move off the street for good, something we at St Mungo’s offer all year round.”

Major businesses, such as ASDA and IKEA, have joined the Mayor’s campaign by donating essential supplies for rough sleepers moving into their new homes. 

Additionally, Virgin Media O2, Vodafone and Good Things Foundation have donated smartphones and connectivity, the Mayor’s press release stated, but the Mayor still urges Londoners to donate what they can to support the campaign.

Last year, the project resulted in 76% of the people not immediately returning to the street, and City Hall said it has been working with London boroughs to ensure this year is equally successful.

Crisis Chief Executive Matt Downie said: “Our services are just the start of someone’s journey and to end their homelessness long-term we need accommodation that is safe and affordable.

“That’s why this funding for more homes for people to rebuild their lives in is hugely welcome.  

“With rapidly rising rents and the cost of living crisis pushing more and more people into poverty and destitution there has never been a more pressing time to ensure that people are protected from life on the streets.”

Toni Warner, Director of Service, Single Homeless Project said: “The lack of affordable housing in our city creates a significant challenge, so this injection of 800 homes is very welcome news particularly when it is targeting new solutions for those who have been multiply disadvantaged. 

“But supporting people out of homelessness is only part of the solution. We need the Government to take action and prevent Londoners from being forced into homelessness by increasing the Local Housing Allowance and benefit cap.”

In response, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “During the pandemic we increased Local Housing Allowance significantly and beyond inflation, benefiting over one million households by an average of over £600 over the year.

“We’re maintaining that boost, keeping support for private renters above pre-pandemic levels.

“The benefit cap provides a strong work incentive and ensures fairness for hard-working taxpaying households by encouraging people to move into work where possible. It balances fairness for taxpayers with providing a vital safety net.”

In December, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) announced plans to protect tens of thousands of vulnerable people from homelessness by a £654 million funding package.

The DLUHC announced that all councils in England were to receive their share of funding from the Homelessness Prevention Grant to support those who need it the most in their local areas for the next two years.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We know that words alone are not enough. That is why [the] government is investing £2 billion over the next three years to give some of the most vulnerable people a roof over their heads, along with targeted support to rebuild their lives.”

Featured image credit: East London Mosque via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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