Rough sleeping is undoubtedly one of the worst scourges of our modern society. How can we, as one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, still have people living on the streets? How can we deliver true ‘good growth’ if we cannot support the most vulnerable in society and ensure that vibrancy and prosperity works for all?
Of course, rough sleeping is a deeply complicated and challenging issue, but the answer is not to see it as someone else’s problem. There is no silver bullet and the long term solution will require multiple parties working together to tackle the problem on several fronts.
The Hidden Network is a new campaign, pioneered by Westminster Council and supported by the six key homeless charities, and now local businesses too. This week the South Westminster Business Improvement Districts (Northbank, Victoria and Victoria Westminster) proudly hosted an event informing businesses about how they can get behind the campaign. At its heart the Hidden Network offers a safer and more positive way for people to donate money to support homeless services.
Instead of giving money to rough sleepers on the streets, people are being encouraged to donate via contactless machines located in offices, theatres, hotels, railway stations and retailers across Westminster. Often giving money directly to people sleeping rough, while well intended, only serves to entrench vulnerable people in the difficult circumstances they find themselves in. The evidence on this is stark.
The Hidden Network campaign clearly demonstrates the role we all have to play in helping to solve this thorny challenge for London.
Ruth Duston, OBE, OC
South Westminster Business Improvement Districts