MQT on 2014-11-19
Session date: 
November 19, 2014
Question By: 
Jennette Arnold OBE
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


In 2008 you promised to eradicate rough sleeping by the 2012 Olympics. Instead it has risen year-on-year since you became Mayor. Why have you failed to deliver this pledge?


Answer for Homelessness

Answer for Homelessness

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Jennette.  What we agreed with the charities and the boroughs was that nobody should spend a second night on the street.  There has been a huge problem with homelessness in London.  You are right in what you say.  It is a continuing problem.  I would contrast it with what goes on in other cities.  For instance, most rough sleepers just spend one night on the street.  Only 3% of all rough sleepers - and that is just 169 people, in other words - were reported on the streets every quarter of the last year.


If you look at a place like New York, the New York’s Deputy Mayor for Housing was interviewed in The Guardian last week and he pointed out that 53,000 people sleep in the city’s homeless shelters every night.  As you have been kind enough to point out, if you go to Washington or New York, as I have done lately, and you see what is going on there, it is of a different order of magnitude, the homeless problem.


That is in no way to minimise the problem we have.  We have a problem.  It is vital to understand the causes of this problem though also, Jennette.  There has been a substantial increase in the proportion of homeless people who are from European Union (EU) accession countries and it is very difficult for local councils to budget for them and for homeless charities to work out how to deal with the problem when you have unrestricted access by large numbers of people to London in the way that we have.  The No Second Night Out scheme is very effective.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  OK.  That might well be working for some people.  I am glad you are agreed that the situation has not got any better and that we now have an 85% increase of rough sleepers.  That is looking from 2007/08 when there were just over 3,000 to now when there is 6,500.


I just want to spend the next few minutes drawing to your attention the plight of London’s young people who are homeless.  I want to know if you know that many young people who are homeless through no fault of their own use your bus network as a place to call home and a place of safety.  If you do, would you agree with me that is something that has to be stopped because it is totally unacceptable and will you commit to revisiting the work of the Bus Outreach service that formed part of the Government’s No One Left Out programme, which was stopped about two years ago?  It cannot be acceptable that the bus service becomes the home and the place of safety for our homeless children of this city.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I will certainly have a look at that.  Obviously the impact of that on the bus service is not being felt because the crime continues to be very low.  In fact, crime has fallen by 45% on buses, but I will certainly look at what is happening.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  I will follow up in writing.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Do not forget that Gordon Selfridge, the American founder of Selfridges, spent his declining years going around.  He went completely bust and he lived on a bus.  He went around with plastic bags.  He went around and around.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  There is this romantic view that adults can take and adults can maybe be involved in.  That does not apply to our young people.  I will write to you and I will send you a case study of this (overspeaking)


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I will be grateful.  Are you talking about people actually sleeping on buses?


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  Absolutely and that is totally unacceptable.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  I will look into it.  It is not feeding through into our crime figures or passenger discomfort but I will find out about that.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  Thank you.