Catherine McGuinness: Homelessness is a challenge which all of us are witness to

Catherine McGuinness homelessness

Homelessness is a challenge which all of us are witness to, both in the Square Mile, and right across the capital.

It is a shameful fact that more than 11,000 people sleep rough on the streets of London every year.

Here at the City of London Corporation we are fully committed to doing everything we can to help our rough sleeper community.

We aim to ensure that people who arrive on the streets spend no more than one night out.

And as many residents will know, we have a dedicated Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Sub Committee which works closely with expert partners, such as the charity St Mungo’s, to support people to transition into safe and permanent accommodation.

Our focus is to help them deal with some of the very complex issues which all too often play a part in keeping people homeless – which can include a reluctance from some rough sleepers to leave the streets.

We want to support them, with compassion and sensitivity, to make lasting improvements to their lives, so that they do not fall back into the same cycle as before.

In all these efforts, we work closely with our partners, including neighbouring boroughs and the Mayor of London.

Throughout the pandemic, our homelessness services ran new additional accommodation projects, tenancy support initiatives, and outreach shifts.

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The result is an increase in the rate at which rough sleepers are being supported and we are now helping more people than ever before.

We are making real progress and the number of people sleeping rough on the City’s streets continues to fall.

From being the governing authority with the fourth highest number of rough sleepers in London, we are now 13th.

Part of the reason for this success is that we are integrating our efforts across the organisation, and we are constantly seeking new ideas.

We recently worked with the firm Tech-Takeback to give homeless people based at a City hostel new laptops and mobile phones to help improve their life opportunities.

Last November, as part of European Week of Waste Reduction, we ran three Tech-Takeback events where people donated unwanted technology and electronics.

City workers and residents can drop off old and unwanted computers, phones, cables, and other gadgets – whether working or broken. The devices are then refurbished or recycled.

As a result, the City Corporation and Tech-Takeback are donating 12 laptops and 10 mobile phones to homeless people at St Mungo’s City Lodge. This technology will give them much more control of their lives. Donating equipment is part of a transition to a more sustainable and compassionate economy.

Sometimes, what seems like a small initiative can make a big difference. By combining schemes like this with our extensive programme of outreach support work, we can continue to help more and more Londoners out of homelessness.

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