The board’s action plan, published on 15 February, makes it clear that ending rough sleeping in London by 2012 will involve three things. First, that no one again should be found living on the streets of the capital; second, that there is an end to the revolving door of homelessness where individuals fall in and out of hostels, prisons and hospitals and back on to the streets; and third, that as soon as someone is found bedding down on the capital’s streets there is a rapid response to ensure that they do not spend another night sleeping rough.
At its inception, the board, set up by the mayor in response to the voluntary sector’s challenge to end rough sleeping by 2012, took the decision to concentrate initially on the city’s most entrenched rough sleepers. It wished to demonstrate that by removing some barriers to accessing services and working together differently, it is possible to help even those rough sleepers who have been on the streets for a decade.
This approach has proved hugely successful, and with three-quarters of those targeted now living indoors, the board is extending this approach to others living on the streets. The board’s plan also makes it clear that ending rough sleeping will require a whole range of complex interventions and services, the majority of which will continue long after the Olympic flame has left for Rio. In particular it needs to continue to provide health services (the board has arranged for a street doctor to work with outreach teams) and skills and training for the homeless.
Success for the board will not be based on a snapshot count of zero on any one day on London’s streets in 2012. Success will mean bringing to an end the shame of people living on London’s streets; that once people are in accommodation, they are provided with the services they need to rebuild a life off the street; and for those few who end up on the streets at a point of crisis, there is a rapid response to ensure they need not spend a second night sleeping rough.
This is not, as you put it, ‘lowering the bar’, but setting the terms by which London will become the world’s leading city in tackling homelessness.
Richard Blakeway, mayor of London’s housing advisor, chair of the London delivery board