‘Rapid response team’ ready for London’s rough sleepers

Sadiq Khan launches a new homelessness initiative for the summer.

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A ‘rapid response team’ is ready for London’s streets and the homeless they find on them – all year round.

The team, announced today (18th July) by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, will operate as an extension of the capital’s Streetlink app across 23 boroughs – with City Hall providing additional funding to specifically support local arrangements in the remaining 10.

They will be services set up especially to help London’s homeless over the summer – just as they were over winter.

“Londoners themselves can also play a key role in helping rough sleepers, by letting our street outreach teams know about people they are concerned about,” said Khan.

“My new ‘rapid response team’ will mean we can now respond faster when Londoners let us know about people on the streets, helping to make sure they get the support they need as quickly as possible,” said Khan.

The team will be deployed in response to reports of rough sleepers made by Londoners using Streetlink.

By responding to new reports of rough sleepers, the new team will help free up existing outreach teams to focus on helping those who have been living on the streets for a long time with complex needs.

With warmer daytime weather likely, Khan is also working with boroughs to support rough sleepers during hot weather by ensuring homeless day shelters are open to offer immediate support to vulnerable people.

With dangers posed including dehydration, heatstroke, and heat exhaustion, Khan is using the same severe weather protocol he put in place over the winter to warn of freezing conditions to notify boroughs of impending high temperatures and encourage them to extend access to homeless day centre services, provide access to water, sunscreen, and immediate support.

“Hot weather can be just as dangerous for people sleeping in the streets as cold weather, so it’s vital that we do whatever we can to help those at risk,” said Cllr Chris Best, Deputy Mayor of Lewisham.

“Outreach workers are key to supporting vulnerable rough sleepers into a place of safety, so the Mayor of London’s additional funding to increase this valuable resource is very welcome.”

In April, Khan hailed Londoners’ generosity after they donated a record £247,742 to his winter rough sleeping campaign, which was split equally between 22 London homelessness charities who came together as part of the campaign.

Khan is also expanding his roughsleeping services significantly this year, doubling his roughsleeping budget for 2019/20 to at least £18m – up from £8.5m in the year he came to into office.

City Hall works with local councils, charities, faith groups, and other organisations all year round to help rough sleepers off the streets.

In the last year, 3,875 people were helped by frontline Mayoral services, up from 3,123 the year before.

“We are pleased to be working with the Mayor of London on his rough sleeping campaign,” said Matt Harrison, director of StreetLink.

“We share his aim for frontline services to be better supported so that people sleeping rough can be helped to get off the streets and end their homelessness for good.”

Last winter, organisations including football clubs and trade unions offered their space to boost the total capacity of shelters.

The ‘floating hub’, a new mobile City Hall service that offers targeted support to rough-sleeping hotspots around London, ran in an empty building in Camden awaiting demolition for HS2 for the first two weeks of April, supporting people off the streets into accommodation – as well as in several other locations.

Khan has called on more private developers and businesses across London to offer their empty buildings and properties as locations from which City Hall can run extra shelters and services for rough sleepers.

In May, he visited the former Clerkenwell fire station building, which has now been turned into London’s first LGBTIQ+ homeless shelter.

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