London threatened by tsunami of homeless, says Big Issue founder
London faces a “tsunami” of homelessness because of government cuts, The Big Issue’s founder has warned.
John Bird made the prediction at a debate on the future of rough sleepers in the capital and on whether Boris Johnson’s target of eliminating the problem by 2012 was on track. Last year 3,600 people were counted sleeping on the streets – a rise of 200 on the previous 12 months. The Notting Hill-born publisher, a former rough sleeper, proposed that London councils bill local authorities around Britain for the services they provide caring for the capital’s homeless. He joined the Mayor’s housing adviser on the panel of a debate hosted by the homelessness charity St Mungo’s at the London School of Economics in Aldwych last night – and called for a “revolution” in the way the capital deals with the homeless. Mr Bird told the Standard: “I think a tsunami is heading this way. The Government has destroyed confidence to an extent not seen since the Eighties. Quite a few people will fall through the net and councils will export their poor to other boroughs. “London is a magnet for the dispossessed from other countries and parts of the UK. Eighty per cent of people I work with are not London-born. One part of the nation screws them up and another part has to sort them out. “If we identify someone who has come from, for example, Sunderland and is on the streets here after being messed up by their social services then we should send them a bill. We should draw on their budgets because we didn’t cause the problem.” The Mayor’s housing adviser Richard Blakeway said he felt the target of having no one sleeping rough in London by next year was still achievable. Councillor Zaffar Van Kalwala, who sits on Brent council’s finance committee, said today: “There is mileage in what Mr Bird says on sharing the burden but we need a coordinated national scheme with government help.” The Big Issue is launching a smartphone app that calculates the location of a buyer downloading a digital copy and pays a seller in that area.