Rough sleepers in London
Rough sleepers in London

Cllr Joshua Lindsey recently joined Lambeth’s homelessness outreach team for one of their early morning outreach shifts. Cllr Lindsey is Lambeth Labour’s Suicide Prevention Champion and a councillor in Ferndale ward.

At 5:30am in the morning I meet with Lambeth’s homelessness outreach team. We’re about to start speaking to people around Brixton who are homeless and have been sleeping rough.

The team tell me that they do this each morning, speaking with rough sleepers, helping them find temporary accommodation or a bed for the next night.

Right now there are around 280,000 that are homeless. The number of homeless people has increased massively since the Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition in 2010 and under successive Tory governments.

With these figures in mind, Lambeth’s outreach team and I start talking to rough sleepers.

The priority, I’m told during our walk, is for the team to get accurate information on rough sleepers. They ask that the public to use tools like the ‘Street Link’ app and website to let them know if they have seen someone rough sleeping so that the team can go and offer them support and advice.

We walk from Brixton town centre to St Matthew’s Church and the team tell me about their work with local addiction services and the NHS.

When we head north I’m told we’re looking for a rough sleeper who was diagnosed with cancer and sleeps in one of Lambeth’s parks in the area. Next door, is a new housing development. There are affordable homes here, but even these, I worry are totally out of reach. This is a stark reminder of the inequality in our borough.

Without decent homes, health issues spiral, mental health problems occur and it is nearly impossible to hold down a job.

This inequality has got worse under the Conservative government. Today, new figures show that the number of children living in temporary accommodation increased by 3% to 127,370. It is not enough for the new Prime Minister to suggest using old government buildings – this risks creating slum like conditions just as the Conservative plans to turn old offices into temporary accommodation did. The government needs to properly fund Local Authorities, build more affordable homes and stop criminalising homeless people.

Locally, we are taking steps to reduce homelessness. In Lambeth, we spend £4 million annually on critical services for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This includes:

  • Close to 500 beds for rough sleepers across the borough
  • Support and advice for people at risk of becoming homeless
  • Fund specialist GP services, nurses and a team of social workers and substance abuse workers.

Lambeth has also just approved our new homelessness strategy which includes a Bill of Rights which will lay out what we’ll do to help homeless people.

It is tragic that the Conservative Government have failed to tackle homelessness, but in Lambeth steps are being made to make people’s lives better, to tackle inequality and provide enough homes.

Cllr Joshua Lindsey

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