Southwark councillor sleeping out for Robes

22 November 2023

In the midst of a national crisis in homelessness and rough sleeping, Southwark cabinet member, Councillor Helen Dennis, will participate in a rough sleeping event on 24 November 2023 to raise awareness and vital funds for the urgent issue.

Councillor Dennis will join others in the community to spend a night on the streets, experiencing first-hand the challenges rough sleepers endure daily.

The Southwark Cathedral SleepOut 2023 is an annual fundraising event organised by local homelessness charity, The Robes Project. The event, hosted by Southwark Cathedral, seeks to highlight the stark realities of life without shelter and fund efforts to support local rough sleepers.

The Robes Project focuses on relieving poverty among people who are experiencing homelessness in Southwark and Lambeth, providing winter night shelters, food, advice, support, and re-settlement services to help them rebuild their lives.

In recent months, Southwark has experienced a dramatic increase in homelessness applications resulting from Home Office cases, with a tenfold increase observed in the last two months. The Council estimates that an additional 1200 homelessness applications may be made as a result of the ‘Streamlined Asylum Process’. Recent analysis shows that rough sleeping is on the increase across the Capital, alongside an existing crisis in temporary accommodation affecting 1 in 23 children across London.

The council is continuing to invest in homelessness prevention and is participating in weekly ‘surgeries’, organised by the voluntary sector to support refugees with their housing options. The council also operates a No First Night Out policy an innovative approach to preventing people from sleeping rough for the first time.

The long term solution is to provide more social rent homes that people can afford and Southwark is leading the way. Since 2014, the council has built or started building over 3,000 new council homes and works with external partners to ensure that social rent homes are delivered as part of every major scheme.

But local initiatives can only go so far without dealing with the national drivers of homelessness. The council is writing to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, and the Home Secretary, requesting urgent action to deal with the crisis in rough sleeping and temporary accommodation. This includes: unfreezing the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to cover the bottom 30 per cent of rents in the local area, taking action to support refugees being evicted from Home Office accommodation, boosting financial support to councils through an increase to the Homelessness Prevention Grant, and increasing funding for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to support residents struggling with rents in a cost of living crisis. 

Cllr Helen Dennis, Cabinet Member for New Homes and Sustainable Development, said: "This night is about amplifying the voices of those that need our support and highlighting the need for national action. I want to use my position to raise awareness and money for the Robes Project that works tirelessly to support others. 

“But compassion alone cannot fix the urgent crisis. We need a coordinated national response that deals with the reasons for homelessness and invests in the long-term provision of affordable housing.

“We are committed to playing our part through partnerships with local organisations such as Robes but we need for the government to urgently review its policies to prevent refugees, people who have sought sanctuary here from countries like Afghanistan and Sudan, becoming homeless this winter.”

For advice and support on rough sleeping, please visit the council’s dedicated webpage.

For more information on the Robes Project, please visit their website.

Page last updated: 22 November 2023

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