Source: Mayor of London
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has warned that hundreds of homeless Londoners face the potentially fatal choice of freezing on the streets or risking Covid infection in communal accommodation if ministers don’t address a serious shortfall in emergency accommodation funding this winter.
Charities, councils and City Hall have all been working tirelessly to ensure people who are homeless this winter have a bed in safe, Covid-secure accommodation over the coldest months. But new calculations from the Mayor’s rough sleeping team have highlighted a £24m gap in emergency accommodation funding – meaning there simply won’t be enough safe spaces for everyone who needs them this winter. Recently-announced funding from central Government – a national £10m winter fund and the £15m ‘Protect’ programme – falls far short of what is needed.
The Mayor is calling for the Government to make extra funds available as a matter of extreme urgency as temperatures drop and Covid cases in the capital rise. The Mayor has already activated the pan-London Severe Weather Emergency Protocols (SWEP) for one night this winter as temperatures dipped below 0C.
This funding would not only pay for accommodation but also help provide the support many vulnerable homeless people require, including dedicated services for people with drug and alcohol problems, members of the LGBTQ+ community and young homeless people. More than 500 under-35s were accommodated in hotels funded by City Hall during the first wave of the pandemic.
The Mayor recognises the huge impact the pandemic has had on the lives of young people, with the instability, lack of opportunities and unstable employment forcing hundreds into homelessness for the first time. The Mayor’s 2020/21 Winter Rough Sleeping Fundraising Campaign will directly benefit this group as funds will be split between four charities working with young homeless Londoners: Depaul, akt, Centrepoint and New Horizons Youth Centre.
Over the last three years generous Londoners have raised over £500,000 for charities to support rough sleepers off the streets and the public will once again have the opportunity to donate via TAP London contactless donation points in shops, stations and cafes across the capital or on the TAP London website.
Since March, a world-leading collective effort by London local government and charities has given more than 6,000 homeless people across London somewhere safe to stay – including over 1,700 in hotels funded by City Hall. Doing this has kept some of the most vulnerable Londoners safe, avoiding an estimated 7,000 infections and 90 deaths, and preventing the high number of infections seen amongst those who are homeless in other global cities.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “For homeless Londoners, this is a winter like no other, as they face the twin dangers of freezing conditions and Covid-19.
“My rough sleeping team, charities and councils are working tirelessly to support and accommodate homeless Londoners this winter, as they have been doing since the start of the pandemic.
“London will continue to do what we can with the resources we have to keep homeless Londoners safe but we could be doing so much more. Ministers must urgently set out the funding and policy changes needed to keep people off the streets for good.
“In the absence of action from Government to keep every rough sleeper safe this winter, I’m confident Londoners will once again show their compassion and generosity by backing my winter fundraising campaign and helping to support young Londoners who find themselves homeless.”
Depaul UK CEO Mike Thiedke said: “We are thrilled to be chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the Mayor of London’s Winter Appeal. Depaul UK is also proud of the contribution we have been able to make to the Mayor’s pandemic emergency response. Working with his Deputy Mayor and the team at City Hall, we have provided desperately needed emergency accommodation and resettlement support.
“With more young people facing homelessness as the result of the pandemic, the need for our services will only increase. The Mayor’s support is invaluable and I would like to thank the Mayor on behalf of Depaul UK. As the weather gets colder, I urge Londoners to give generously to keep young people safe, warm and off the streets.”
Phil Kerry, Chief Executive at New Horizon said: “This year we have seen Covid-19 has pushed more young people onto the streets. As the only charity in London offering youth-specific street outreach and daycentre support for under-25s sleeping rough, your donations are vital to ensure we can offer the services so badly needed this winter.”
Seyi Obakin, chief executive of Centrepoint, said: “This year has been a huge challenge for everyone but, for charities like Centrepoint and the young people we support, it has been particularly tough. Our income started falling just as the costs for protecting our staff and young people increased and the demand on our services, such as the only youth homelessness Helpline, has surged too.
“We know this is shaping up to be a Christmas like no other. However, as most of us meet up with our loved ones at home or over a video call, we should try to remember that London’s most vulnerable young people don’t have that support network of family or friends and some may even lack somewhere safe to sleep.
“That is why we are so grateful for the Mayor’s support and it is why we need your help now more than ever. This appeal will let us protect more vulnerable young people over Christmas and give them a chance of a brighter New Year.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
To find your nearest TAP point or to donate online please go to: https://www.taplondon.org/donate