London mayor tackles foreign rough sleepers
The mayor of London is organising meetings with foreign embassies in a bid to tackle the number of overseas nationals who are sleeping rough in the capital.
Boris Johnson wants to meet embassy staff - understood to be from eastern European countries - to make them aware of the number of their citizens who are out on the streets and to work out possible solutions.
According to Jenny Edwards, chief executive of umbrella group Homeless Link, 52 per cent of the 3,673 rough sleepers recorded in London last year are not UK nationals.
Richard Blakeway, the mayor’s advisor on housing, said: ‘We know there is a significant proportion of foreign nationals who sleep rough in London and we are looking at ways to improve the help available to them.
‘This includes talking to embassies… and exploring what role they can take to help those individuals come off the streets.’
A spokeperson for the mayor’s office said that talks are only at a preliminary stage, but would look at what help embassies might give, such as providing money to enable their country’s citizens to return home.
A key aim of the mayor’s London housing strategy is to end rough sleeping by 2012.
Housing minister Grant Shapps announced Mr Johnson’s approach to embassies at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester this week.
Mr Shapps said that if it were British nationals who were sleeping rough abroad the government would do something about it.
Homelessness charity Thames Reach recently warned how rough sleepers from central and eastern Europe in particular were at risk of being targeted by gangs looking for modern-day slaves.
The charity’s London Reconnections project supports rough sleepers from those regions to return home and access the services they need to get their lives back on track.