At St Mungo's we work to end homelessness and help people rebuild their lives. Across London and the south of England, we provide outreach support and accommodation where people can find the help they need to begin to build their futures in a positive way. We know that there is life after rough sleeping. We see every day that people can - and do - recover and move on from homelessness.
Today the Capital's streets are in crisis - the number of under-25s sleeping rough in one of the richest cities in the world has more than doubled since the last mayoral election. Whoever succeeds Boris Johnson in May won't just have the platform to express concern and talk about change, they'll have the power, the public support, and a multi-million pound budget to work with London's boroughs to make homelessness and rough sleeping a thing of the past. But how should they do it and where should they start?
So Mary was not sleeping rough. Jesus was not born in a shop doorway. But was there a decent lock on the door of the stable? Was there decent sanitation - even for that time? Were Mary and Joseph alone or were there other people staying in the stable and if so what were they like? Were they drunk? Were they pushing drugs?
Research indicates that around half of those sleeping rough don't seek help before they end up on the streets, and many are simply unaware of the help that is available to them. This is not surprisingly really. Nobody plans to end up in that situation, and it often happens suddenly, the result of circumstances outside their control.
Introducing spikes to move rough sleepers along is a selfish response to an issue we should all have a stake in tackling, be it social or economic... Anger has been understandably focussed on 118 Southwark Bridge Road, but that anger now needs to be focussed on finding a cure for what is just one symptom of a broader problem.
Homelessness services help more than 40,000 people each year to take steps towards leaving these problems behind, but budget cuts are putting the future of these projects in serious danger. Can we really afford to not help? We need to argue that an investment in helping someone who is homeless today to realise their potential tomorrow is one worth making...