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This month the people of London will vote in a new Mayor to replace Boris Johnson. And housing is the Number One concern of many voters. So a number of homelessness charities joined forces in April to host a special mayoral hustings, or debate, all about homelessness.
The Lead London Home campaign invited representatives from all five main parties taking part in the Mayor of London elections. Tom Copley represented Labour’s candidate, Sadiq Khan; David Dean represented Zac Goldsmith (Conservative), Emily Davey, Liberal Democrats; Shahrar Ali, Green; and David Kurten, UKIP.
Questions were asked by people with experience of homelessness, and issues put forward included housing benefit cuts, homelessness legislation, and making private renting more secure.
Both Conservative and Labour representatives pledged to go one better on the ‘No Second Night Out’ scheme, and adopt a ‘Not First Night Out’ approach. We await more details with interest (and the usual hint of scepticism).
UKIP’s Mr Kurten said his party would want to set-up a homelessness register and work alongside CHAIN so people can access medical care. Health was also an issue for the Conservatives, with swift connections between hospitals and homeless services pledged by Mr Dean. While Labour’s Mr Copley noted bringing empty homes into use would only provide half is what is needed.
The response to the debate on Twitter was somewhat disenchanted, with Alison Gelder of Housing Justice commenting: “Disappointing answers to q about need for universal high quality advice at point of losing a home.” Crisis policy manager Sarah MacFadyen tweeted, “Overall disappointing ambition on homelessness from all candidates”. And one of the members of The Pavement’s own readers’ panel, Gordon Chaston, added “A lacklustre, weak, sticking plaster approach from candidates with strong comments from Emily Dave.”
The Lead London Home campaign is led by Crisis, St Mungo's, Centrepoint and Homeless Link, and supported by 20 other homeless charities: 999 Club, Albert Kennedy Trust, Bench Outreach, Big Issue Foundation, Cardboard Citizens, Cardinal Hume Centre, DePaul, Divine Rescue, Evolve, Housing Justice, Pathway, Robes Project, SHP, Streets of London, Thames Reach, The Connection at St Martin's, The Passage, Trinity Homeless Projects, West London Mission, and YMCA England.
To sign the Lead London Home petition, calling on the next Mayor of London to make homelessness a priority, visit http://www.leadlondonhome.org.