Authorities increase bed spaces and number of outreach workers
Councils plan for rough sleeper rise during Games
Local authorities across London are putting in place contingency plans to deal with a possible spike in rough sleeping during the Olympic Games.
Several boroughs have responded to a request issued in July 2011 from London Mayor Boris Johnson to submit details of planned responses should the advent of the Games lead to an increase in demand to homelessness services, because of more people coming to the capital.
The boroughs of Lambeth, Camden, Kensington and Chelsea and Tower Hamlets have all found extra emergency bed spaces by approaching hostels and making full use of emergency assessment centres to temporarily house people. Councils including Camden, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets will be deploying extra outreach workers to help rough sleepers off the street.
Moreover, Lambeth is to support ‘sex working women’ by increasing outreach services, and Southwark and Olympic borough Newham are increasing monitoring through council officers, police and CCTV.
Olympic host borough Waltham Forest is providing extra resources to prevent illegal evictions to decrease the likelihood of people ending up on the streets in the run-up to the Games.
A Greater London Authority document was published in May, and summarises GLA concerns and councils’ responses. It says rough sleepers could get ‘drawn into London from other areas’, because of people wanting to experience the Olympic atmosphere and that ‘hot-spots’ could appear ‘overnight’ in areas with no history of rough sleeping, because the volume of people will cause individuals to congregate.
It states that increased begging could result in the ‘risk’ of ‘multiple reports of rough sleeping and public perception of rough sleeping’.
The document also suggests crowds of visitors may displace or distress existing vulnerable rough sleepers, increasing demand for services in other areas, and that outreach workers may be less able to get around the city during the Games, due to heavy traffic.
The Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Commissioning Framework, published last July, said that the mayor would ‘support services that respond to potential increases in rough sleeping linked with the Olympics’.
Although the GLA is not providing additional funding, it said the No Second Night Out initiative, which opened a second hub in Hammersmith last month, is taking on additional volunteers over the Games to meet capacity.
Alison Gelder, director at faith-based charity Housing Justice, said she was disappointed there would be no new funding, but added: ‘I am pleased many boroughs are taking the risk seriously and have made appropriate plans.’
A spokesperson for charity Homeless Link said: ‘We’re not expecting rough sleeping to rise as a direct result of the Olympics but it’s reassuring to know that if it does, charities and councils in London have contingency plans in place to cope.’