I had the opportunity to attend a seminar at Lambeth Palace in London on Monday entitled The Homelessness Reduction Act – A Faith Based Response. Whilst walking around Westminster the day before, from Embankment to Waterloo, around Soho and as far as Covent Garden, I counted 25 rough sleepers along the river, in the parks and in shop doorways. The main thing that struck me was the fact every rough sleeper I came across, save a few, was asleep during the day in the blazing hot sun. I figured this was because it is safer to sleep during the day and be awake at night. This observation was confirmed by Reverend Phillip Bevan, who I met at Lambeth Palace when he qualified that his Church in Westminster regularly has 25 people sleeping in it during the day because it is safer and the night-time economy provides a variety of opportunities for rough sleepers. Most of the rough sleepers I saw had umbrellas shading them from the sun, and this practical item would be a great thing to introduce in Cornwall when tents and sleeping bags are given out.
On Tuesday I visited a Supported Accommodation facility not far from Clapham Common. The staff were very welcoming and it was interesting to look around, meet some residents and hear about the similarities and differences between there and Cosgarne. The main thing that struck me was despite the some 500 miles between Cornwall and London, the issues that often accompany homelessness and the pressure on services are the same. One huge difference, however, is transport. Whilst not everyone can afford a Travelcard or Oystercard, London does provide an unrivalled and affordable network to get around the ever-expanding Capital. I was able to catch the boat from Embankment all the way to Canary Wharf, ride the Cable Car across the river and board the Docklands Light Railway just journeying to the seminar. There is a new Homelessness Outreach service being introduced in London that will see three workers going out on the Tube trains and busses to engage with the homelessness community and identify project work around the stations and bus stops where rough sleepers often stay.
I had a great time in London and I’m hoping to return and visit other Homelessness accommodation as part of my PhD research. Sharing best practice, and turning up the volume on homeless people’s experiences is vital to ensuring the sector can meet need with realistic solutions.