The visit today by the Prime Minister to The Connection at St Martin’s, a charity based at Trafalgar Square which provides help to the homeless, was accompanied by new official figures showing that 4,266 people were recorded living on the streets of London last autumn.
That is actually down on a year earlier, which is encouraging, although other statistics released earlier this week following a Freedom of Information request show a far worse picture with five times more rough sleepers than the official tally.
Either way, in a city as prosperous as London it is intolerable that anyone should be forced to live rough and, whatever the figures say, the evidence before Londoners’ own eyes gives daily proof that a significant problem exists that must be tackled and solved.
It is right therefore that Mr Johnson has acknowledged this both in his words today and in his decision to allocate an extra £236 million to alleviating the problem through the provision of “move on” accommodation for 6,000 people who are already rough sleeping or at risk of doing so.
As the Prime Minister — who has also appointed Tony Blair’s former homelessness czar Dame Louise Casey to conduct an urgent review of the causes of rough sleeping and solutions — says it is “unacceptable” that so many are living on the streets and his pledge that he “will not stop” until they’re not, is welcome.
The Evening Standard will be watching, however, to ensure these positive words are matched with enduring action to make sure this essential ambition is fulfilled.
Rough sleeping is, of course, just the worst manifestation of the deeper problem of homelessness. The numbers affected are far greater, and the consequences for those forced to live in temporary accommodation, sofa-surf or sleep on friends’ floors, can be severe, particularly for women.
It is pleasing that the PM acknowledged its contribution today, saying he saluted our “relentless” work on this issue. But it’s now time for everyone to redouble their efforts, whether in Government, local councils, charities or elsewhere.
Our campaign, which will be helping to set up London’s first 24-hour drop-in women’s centre at the Marylebone Project to ensure all homeless women have a safe space to turn to, will be continuing too.
Rough sleeping and homelessness are blights that must be banished.
We need a third runway
The future of Heathrow’s planned third runway is in question again today following a Court of Appeal ruling that the existing plan does not take adequate account of the Government’s climate change commitments made in the UN’s Paris Agreement.
The judgment, which the court said ministers would not be appealing, deals a severe blow to the project and could be terminal if the Government fails to find a new way of marrying the business need for the airport with environmental needs
It must strive hard to do this, however.
A third runway is necessary for advancing this country’s prosperity and must still be delivered.