This week City Matters reported that London youth hostel which has housed the City’s homeless during lockdown will offer them respite until winter’s end next year in a bid to help get people off the streets permanently. Just eight to 12 people were recently counted sleeping rough in the City and our teams are now engaging with people they haven’t been able to find a breakthrough before. As deputy chair of the City of London’s homelessness and roughsleeping sub-committee I am determined we continue to build on this progress.

At the beginning of lockdown, City of London Corporation block-booked space at the Youth Hostel Association’s historic building near St Paul’s Cathedral.

Now lockdown has started to ease we are aiming to increase the number of spaces from 20 to 45 to give people breathing space to find them a permanent home and get back on their feet.

Chris Pelham, the assistant director of communities and children’s services, said his team has already identified  people it can help there.

They all have plans to help them move into permanent accommodation and include 31 people who came off the street during lockdown – 19 are already at the YHA, whilst a further four were in accommodation booked by the Greater London Authority and eight more were in hotels.

In May this year there were 4,184 homeless people  recorded across London  and 3,630 were in emergency accommodation.

The move during lockdown to emergency accomodation was an opportunity to help get people off the streets for good.

For some of the City’s rough sleepers it was the first time they had been willing to talk to the corporation about getting off the streets in a decade.

Mr Pelham said the youth hostel  has been a “key” part of the support for homeless people.

Initially the council booked the hostel in Carter Lane until July when the government funding was due to run out.

Mr Pelham said: “The clients we’ve been able to work with successfully at the YHA are the clients we’ve been trying to work with for years.”

“We have made life-changing differences during this time,” Mr Pelham said.

Because of the emergency move Mr Pelham said just eight to 12 people were counted on the street recently  –  “the lowest level of rough sleeping recorded in the Square Mile for many years”.

This compares with 45 people sleeping rough in January – before the Covid crisis accelerated.

(Summary of City Matters article published 28 July 2020)