An outrage, a farce, a scar on London. These were the words used by London's leading mayoral candidates to describe the capital's surging levels of homelessness at last month's LandAid Debate.
Standing before a crowd of 350 property professionals at Central Hall Westminster, Zac Goldsmith, Sadiq Khan, Caroline Pidgeon and Darren Johnson (replacing Green Party candidate Sian Berry) each pledged their resolve to tackling homelessness in London.
Zac Goldsmith of the Conservatives promised ‘renewed efforts’ to tackle the crisis, taking his learning from charities like Veteran’s Aid, which provides ex-servicemen and women with support on everything from detoxing to skills training.
In response to chair Sir Martyn Lewis's sobering reminder that the number of young people sleeping rough on the capital’s streets is at a 5 year high, Goldsmith said he would roll out a No First Night Out scheme, building on the existing £80,000 City Hall pilot which provides early intervention to potential rough sleepers.
Labour’s Sadiq Khan told the audience ‘it shames our city to have thousands of young people facing homelessness, and I applaud LandAid for making it their priority to tackle it.’ Among the mayoral hopeful’s plans was the creation of a homelessness prevention charter in tandem with the 32 local authorities to encourage early intervention and stop the ‘vicious cycle’ of rough sleeping.
He finished by highlighting the capital’s increasing disparity of wealth: 'we are the fifth richest city in the world. We are a city of 140 billionaires, 400,000 millionaires. That’s great, but 100,000 Londoners used a food bank last year. We have huge inequalities in this city. And if the mayor of the greatest city in the world can’t address homelessness, what’s the point of having a mayor?'
Also emphasizing the need for greater investment in prevention services was the Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon, who stressed that ‘mental health needs to be of an equal status to physical health’. Pidgeon went on to suggest signposting on London’s transport networks to support services and hostels, after it emerged that hundreds of young homeless people were seeking shelter on the city’s night buses.
The Green Party’s Darren Johnson agreed with his fellow panellists that a ‘coherent, consistent, London-wide’ strategy was needed to tackle the homelessness crisis.
Chief Executive Paul Morrish said: 'With the property industry beginning to unite behind LandAid's campaign to end youth homelessness, it is encouraging to know that whoever wins the mayoralty is on our side. And we can be rest assured that a multi-billion pound industry will be holding them to account. A pledge is a pledge after all!'
Watch the video above, or read the full write-up of the LandAid Debate 2016.