Last week I joined the first meeting of the City Corporation’s new homelessness and rough sleeping sub committee – important timing as we start preparing for the winter. Together with Alderman Luder I represent the Police Committee on this sub committee and I had the privilege to be elected as deputy chair under the leadership of my colleague Cllr Marianne Fredricks.
The sub committee brings together the City Corporation’s housing and health teams together with the City Police, City Churches and partners such as St Mungos. Partnership working and cross agency collaboration is key in addressing homelessness and rough sleeping.
In addition, we secured support for a more proactive approach by the City Police in addressing begging in the City – although it’s important to stress not to automatically associated begging with rough sleeping. The picture is much more complex.
The City Police updated the committee on an important trial which has been operating over the last few months called ‘Operation Luscombe‘ – which sees the City Police working with partners such as St Mungos, Homerton Sexual Health and drugs and alcohol advice colleagues at new Intervention Hub project tackling begging in the City. First indications are positive with reporting of begging going down, but we need to continue to measure to assess the impact. More importantly however the project gives officers positive tool to engage with beggars, offering support, whilst at the same time building up a strong case should they need to take legal action – in particular in the case of organised begging or criminal groups.
Out meeting police officers, health and housing services on ‘Operation Luscombe’
Often there is a complex set of issues behind homelessness and rough sleeping. Health care (or lack off access to health care) is one of these important issues. The committee heard an excellent presentation by Gill Leng in collaboration with the Charity Revolving doors on how we can improve health care provision for rough sleepers – and help them onto a different path. Some serious concerns about support to rough sleepers who are not British, and the negative impact Brexit is likely to have.
Gill presented many recommendations and I am committed we ensure actions are being taken forward. It’s important we join up services and offer support, as well as being clear that there is no place for anti-social behavious or begging in the City. But ultimately what matters is, as my colleague Cllr William Pimlott said, that “no one should have to sleep on the street.”