- Sadiq formally opens Veterans Aid refurbished and extended facility for homeless UK veterans
- £1.6m provided by City Hall to assist with refurbishment
- £180,000 of City Hall funding helps charity offer immediate route off the streets for every UK veteran
- Sadiq welcomes further £3m of Government funding for City Hall – but warns much more is needed
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, today formally opened the newly refurbished and extended New Belvedere House, a short-term residential facility for homeless UK veterans run by charity Veterans Aid.
He praised the charity’s work supporting people off the streets into employment and housing and preventing rough sleeping in the first place.
New Belvedere House, which has been operating in Tower Hamlets for 45 years, runs a unique Welfare to Wellbeing programme which helps transform the lives of homeless UK ex-service personnel by offering an immediate route off the streets.
Sadiq is investing £180,000 over three years in the programme, in addition to over £1.6 million provided by City Hall to assist with the £8.2 million refurbishment of New Belvedere House.
Official statistics published in June showed a drop in the number of people sleeping rough in the capital for the first time in a decade. Last year (2017/18), 7,484 people were seen by outreach workers in London compared to 8,108 in 2016/17 – an eight per cent decrease.
Ministers announced earlier this week London will receive £12.4 million in 2019/20 for rough sleeping services, with £3 million to be directly managed by City Hall.
However, Sadiq has warned that levels are still at a crisis point, and while he is working with councils and charities across London to help homeless veterans and other rough sleepers off the streets, the capital needs a step-change from the Government in terms of funding and a focus on tackling the root causes of homelessness.
Analysis in the Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Plan of Action published earlier this year suggests over £500 million would be needed in London truly to end rough sleeping.
Since opening in 1973, New Belvedere House has provided accommodation for 1,500 veterans who would have otherwise been homeless. Following re-development it can accommodate 66 residents, and accepts referrals from all London boroughs and City Hall services via the charity’s London operations centre.
Focusing on each veteran’s individual needs, the Welfare to Wellbeing programme focuses on community, independent living and support to get back into work, training and permanent accommodation. The average stay at New Belvedere House is just over nine months, and Veterans Aid maintains contact with those who leave – many of whom remain in the community – to ensure that they are still thriving.
Marking the formal re-opening of the new facility, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“It is completely unacceptable that anyone in London – including veterans of our armed services – should have to sleep rough. The refurbished New Belvedere House will help Veterans Aid continue their invaluable work helping to ensure no UK veteran needs to sleep rough in the capital, and I am pleased to be supporting their unique programme.
“We know that to truly end rough sleeping we need a step-change in investment from the Government and an honest commitment to address the root causes of homelessness and help prevent it in the first place.
“We’re doing everything we can with the resources we have, and while we welcome an extra £12 million from Government this week, we know we need over £500 million to stand a chance of truly helping everyone who finds themselves rough sleeping in the capital.”
CEO of Veterans Aid, Dr Hugh Milroy, said:
“The investment in New Belvedere House was made with a view to breaking the mould and creating a 21st Century facility of an unparalleled standard, every aspect of which would play a part in affirming safety, support and success. We already know that we’ve had a profound impact on reducing the numbers of UK veterans on the streets – particularly in London – and are breaking the cycles of dependency that keep them there. Our commitment is to making homelessness among veterans a thing of the past.
“Through our partnership with the Westminster Rough Sleeping Unit, and thanks to support from LIBOR, the GLA and many other significant donors, we have turned an already effective facility into one uniquely equipped to provide veterans handicapped by a diverse range of societal problems with the tools to regain their independence and live rewarding, sustainable lives.”
Sadiq already spends £8.45 million a year on services tackling rough sleeping, including outreach teams who work 24/7 to find people sleeping rough, No Second Night Out hubs to help new rough sleepers, and two teams supporting rough sleepers once they move into accommodation. Last year, 87 per cent of people helped by Mayoral services left the streets.
The Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Plan of Action sets out the immediate action he will take with his current powers and resources to expand his pan-London services for rough sleepers, including doubling the number of outreach workers in his London Street Rescue team this autumn, boosting local cold weather provision and improving access to mental health services.
With his No Nights Sleeping Rough taskforce, Sadiq has continually lobbied Government for more funding, and successfully secured an extra £11.1 million for London rough sleeping services across 2018/19, of which £3.3 million is being directly managed by City Hall.
But he is clear that this falls drastically short of what the Government need to invest into services – his Plan outlines £574 million over the next five years – to provide both immediate help for those in crisis, and long-term assistance to keep people from returning to the streets.