Evgeny Lebedev

The Mayor of London and Evgeny Lebedev sleep rough to raise awareness of Homeless Veterans campaign

Evening Standard Tuesday 13 January 2015

Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Evening Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev spent a night rough-sleeping on a London street in a show of solidarity with this newspaper’s Homeless Veterans campaign

Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Evening Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev spent a night rough-sleeping on a London street in a show of solidarity with this newspaper’s Homeless Veterans campaign.

Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands joined the pair, who were armed with a sleeping bag and sheet of cardboard each, as they spent Friday night on a pavement in Gresham Street, five minutes walk from St Paul’s Cathedral, in the City of London.The group went homeless for the night to raise awareness of how to help those genuinely forced into rough-sleeping.

The Evening Standard and Independent titles’ Homeless Veterans campaign is fundraising for ex-servicemen and women seeking housing in London as well as nationally.

Mr Johnson gave his support to the appeal on Saturday morning, saying: “People who have served our country in the most difficult and unimaginable situations deserve all the help we can give them.

“We have made a demonstrable difference in decreasing the number of veterans out on the streets in the last two decades, but it’s tragic to learn how many there still are out there,” he added.

“It’s wonderful to see the work being done by institutions helping those out in the cold, and we can’t give them our thanks enough,” said Mr Johnson.

Earlier in the evening Mr Johnson, Mr Lebedev and Ms Sands visited some of the outreach programmes run by London charity St Mungo’s Broadway.

At The Lodge in Holborn, those referred for residency have spent a minimum of two years on the street, though in some cases have slept rough for as long as twenty to forty years. Residents are offered long-term accommodation as part of an initiative to help the most entrenched rough sleepers on London streets.

The first guest the group met at The Lodge – Roland, 84 – was the oldest current resident, as well as a veteran who had fought for Britain in North Korea during the early 1950s.

Before bedding down, Mr Johnson, Mr Lebedev and Ms Sands also visited the south London hub for No Second Night Out, in Lewisham – a service funded by the Mayor and designed to provide direct care and assistance to those sleeping in rough in London for the first time.

No Second Night Out operates alongside national call service, StreetLink, which allows members of the public to report rough-sleepers to local council outreach teams across the country. Rough sleepers reported through Streetlink are approached by local services and offered assessment and reconnection service, as well as short-term temporary accommodation.

Mr Lebedev, owner of the Independent titles and London Evening Standard, said: “We’ve seen compassionate London at it’s best tonight: brave careworkers who care about people no-one else does, and show genuine courage on a daily basis.

“The Independent and Evening Standard’s Homeless Veterans campaign has attempted to draw attention to one group of vulnerable people out on the streets, but they’re not the only ones.

He added: “It’s humbling to see the work done by all off these outreach services.

“That goes for government programmes like No Second Night Out who provide a rapid response to new rough sleepers, to more targeted charity groups like Veterans Aid [the Homeless Veterans campaign’s charity partner], who help those that have served their country, yet afterwards find themselves destitute.”

Later, having bedding down for the night on Gresham Street, Mr Lebedev, Mr Johnson and Ms Sands were surprised to be offered help and shelter from two outreach workers from St Mungo’s Broadway, the London charity responsible for getting rough sleepers off the street and into assessment and reconnection hubs like No Second Night Out.

“We had been taking a call on two men sleeping out on benches just a minute from here, before we saw shapes in sleeping bags just over the way,” said Joe, who works full time for St Mungo’s Broadway and was mid-shift when he came across the group.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw one of the figures on the ground was the Mayor of London,” he added.

The three were offered shelter for the night and assistance but refused the offer.

“70 to 80 per cent of people now spend only one night out on the streets.” Said Mr Johnson

He added: “I very much hope that I will only spend one night out on the street. My ambition, in fact, is for this to be a no second night out project.”

If you’re concerned about someone sleeping rough, get in touch with StreetLink so that they can connect them to the local support and services they need.

Contact 0300 500 0914, download the StreetLink app or make a referral via www.streetlink.org.uk

For more on the appeal visit this link homelessveterans.co.uk/

Photographer: Nigel Howard