Last week, just near the station, I saw a man huddled up, sleeping in the telephone box. It was bitterly cold and he looked horribly uncomfortable.
I was walking and talking with my next door neighbour at the time – but I broke off from our conversation to go back to see what I could do for this man. He responded well to being woken and he told me about his situation. It was a familiarly tragic story – a loss of job, broken family relationships and various unstable housing situations falling through. He was clearly carrying some form of injury and could barely stand up. I waited with him, talking about the local centres he could use, until an ambulance arrived.
It is just one more example of the growing situation we have in London where more and more people are ending up on the streets. Street homelessness has gone up by more than 50% over the last five years. The current Mayor, Boris Johnson had pledged to eliminate rough sleeping by 2012 but last year 7,581 people slept rough in London – and these are just the official figures.
I am proud to work for the West London Mission who have been helping homeless people for 129 years. Our Day Centre in Marylebone often sees 100 rough sleepers every day. We also coordinate the Westminster Churches Winter Night Shelter where 13 churches and a synagogue all work together to offer accommodation every night of the week between October and May. We also run other more specialist services for men with alcohol addictions and for homeless ex-servicemen.
It is great that so many charities and churches are working to help homeless people come in from the cold. But we can’t just offer more and more help without speaking out about what is causing the problem. As Desmond Tutu said:
‘We should not just be pulling drowning people out of the river. We must go upstream and find out who is pushing them in.’
So this is why West London Mission has joined together with 20 other charities who have come together in the Lead London Home campaign. With the mayoral elections coming up in May, now is the time to make our voice heard about the scandal of homelessness in London.
There is a clear manifesto which sets out 6 key actions that we are calling the new Mayor to take. And there is a petition so that as many people as possible add their voice to speak up about the scandal of homelessness.
Please consider signing and sharing this post with your friends.