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City & London East Assembly Member, Unmesh Desai, talks about the steps being taken to address homelessness in the Square Mile in his latest exclusive column for City Matters.

With temperatures starting to plummet, it is vital that we remember those in our communities who have been left destitute and forced to sleep out on our streets.

The latest figures from the Greater London Authority show that 181 rough sleepers were recorded in the City of London between July and September 2019. Sadly, this marks a shocking 60% increase upon the previous summer. From City Hall, the Mayor is taking stringent measures to tackle the causes of homelessness and has invested millions into increasing the capacity of outreach programmes across the Capital.

However, we will only be able to turn this currently dire situation around, with the necessary urgency, if the next government also fully plays its part.

Whoever holds the keys to Number 10 by Christmas must reconsider the damaging and callous welfare reforms implemented over the last decade, invest properly in local authorities and homelessness reduction services and must finally put an end to unfair section 21, or ‘no fault’ evictions.

As Londoners, we can also make a difference by referring rough sleepers to support and outreach services through the Streetlink app and donating to the London Homeless Charities Group online or through the contactless TAP points.

During these winter months, we are also likely to see an increased strain on our already overstretched NHS. Recently published A&E waiting time figures will only add to the public’s concerns about the state of our health services which have been recklessly hollowed out by a lack of investment over the past nine years.

On a local level, these stats revealed that almost 30% of patients who attended St Bart’s A&E department in October waited four hours or more to be admitted to a ward, transferred elsewhere, or discharged.

This is absolutely unacceptable and we must now see swift action taken to address the burgeoning vacancy rates in the NHS.

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