In fact, rough sleeping is increasing in all four City & East boroughs, and across London as a whole.
It’s a tragedy that in 2016 we still aren’t giving people the support they need to stop them sleeping rough. To find out more about the root causes of this issue and what needs to happen to address them, I spent a night shadowing the fantastic night team from St Mungo’s.
St Mungo’s is the largest provider of street outreach and homelessness services in the country, offering rough sleeper outreach services across London and the south of England. Their outreach teams go out at night and in the early morning to find people who are sleeping rough. Their clients include those who are new to the street, sleeping rough for the first time, and those that have a rough sleeping history and complicated problems that makes it more difficult to move off the streets.
Talking to the staff there gave me a real insight into the challenges they face and what needs to happen to improve the situation for people sleeping rough, and some small but impactful actions we can all take.
Many people sleeping rough have incredibly complex needs, including drug and alcohol addiction and mental health problems. Sadly, there still aren’t enough services to address these problems. We need greater investment in providing more and better services like St Mungo’s, and for agencies to work together to make sure people get the help they need, when they need it.
All of us can help by reporting rough sleepers using Streetlink, a free website that will then send a referral to agencies such as St Mungo’s, who can put people in touch with the services they need. It’s difficult, and for a lot of us counter-intuitive, but please don’t give money or food to people you see. This can delay them reaching out to get the help they need.
Every individual’s reason for sleeping rough is different. My biggest lesson was that the solution to rough sleeping is often so much more than a bed or a place to sleep. The problems that lead to people sleeping rough are multiple and complex. Organisations like St Mungo’s do an incredible job supporting the people they’re in touch with. If elected in on May 5th I will work with the GLA to ensure we provide the mental health and drug and alcohol services they need, and work with businesses to ensure they play their part in helping bring an end to rough sleeping in London.
Role of businesses in supporting efforts of places like St Mungo’s
- About 45% of rough sleepers in the City are from Eastern Europe