THE BLOG

Persuade, Bully or Cajole the Government? However They Do It, London's New Mayor Can Solve Our Youth Homelessness Crisis

25/01/2016 17:26 GMT | Updated 25/01/2017 10:12 GMT

They've always been sympathetic, and in office they have created some positive programmes, but candidates for London Mayor have never seen tackling the scandal of youth homelessness as a vote winner.

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?

Successive mayors have made efforts to better support homeless young people across London. Working with local councils they have invested in schemes such as No Second Night Out to move rough sleepers from the street and into emergency accommodation.

Initiatives like these have been well-received but the current system is now being overwhelmed. In 2010 there were 318 young people found to be sleeping rough on the capital's streets; by 2015 that figure had risen to 880. In addition 17,711 under-25s last year accessed homelessness services across London, including the many hostels run by Centrepoint.

In response, Centrepoint - along with other charities in the capital - has created Lead London Home to harness public support across the city to persuade the next Mayor to use their significant power, influence and resources to prioritise rough sleeping and homelessness between now and 2020.

The Mayor of London can commission homelessness services, build housing, and hold property developers to account when it comes to delivering affordable homes in new developments.

But the winning candidate's biggest role after May's election may well be attempting to persuade, bully or cajole the government into reviewing its approach to affordable housing and some of its welfare reforms, including freezing levels of housing benefit for those unemployed or in low paid work in a city where rents have risen 15% since 2011.

The figures clearly show the need for the next London Mayor to build more affordable homes, to invest in age-appropriate hostels, and to ensure continued support for rough sleepers. They also show that voters are ready to reward candidates who pledge to make these issues a priority.

A new poll conducted for Lead London Home found that 68% of Londoners are 'appalled' by the scale of homeless across the city with 72% believing that the next Mayor should do more on the issue.

Londoners understand that in the 21st Century no-one should be sleeping on the city's streets, and that dealing with sky-high rents is long overdue. But to end youth homelessness we need the ambition of our politicians to meet that of their constituents.