In a show of solidarity with The Independent’s Homeless Veterans campaign, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the owner of the Independent titles, Evgeny Lebedev, spent a night this weekend sleeping rough on a London street.
Armed with a sleeping bag and a sheet of cardboard each, the pair saw in Friday night to Saturday morning from a pavement on Gresham Street, five minutes’ walk from St Paul’s Cathedral, in the City of London.
Both Mr Johnson and Mr Lebedev said the move was designed to raise awareness of how to help those genuinely forced into sleeping rough.
The Independent and London Evening Standard’s combined Homeless Veterans campaign is fundraising for ex-servicemen and -women seeking housing in London as well as nationally.
Mr Johnson gave his support to the appeal on Saturday morning, saying: “People who have served our country in the most difficult and unimaginable situations deserve all the help we can give them. We have made a demonstrable difference in decreasing the number of veterans out on the streets in the last two decades, but it’s tragic to learn how many there still are out there,” he added.
“It’s wonderful to see the work being done by institutions helping those out in the cold, and we can’t give them our thanks enough,” Mr Johnson said.
Earlier in the evening, Mr Johnson and Mr Lebedev visited some of the outreach programmes run by the London charity St Mungo’s Broadway.
At The Lodge in Holborn, those referred for residency have spent a minimum of two years on the street, though in some cases have slept rough for as long as 20 to 40 years. Residents are offered long-term accommodation as part of an initiative to help the most entrenched rough sleepers on London’s streets.
The first guest Mr Johnson and Mr Lebedev met at The Lodge – Roland, 84 – was the accommodation’s oldest current resident, as well as a veteran who had fought for Britain in North Korea during the early 1950s.
Before bedding down, Mr Johnson and Mr Lebedev also visited the south London hub for No Second Night Out, in Lewisham – a service funded by the Mayor and designed to provide direct care and assistance to those sleeping rough in London for the first time.
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
1/20 Glynn Barrell
Glyn Barrell is among the veterans hoping to benefit from the self-build scheme in Plymouth
2/20 Rachel Holliday
Rachel Holliday is converting a police station into a hostel
3/20 Androcles Scicluna
Veteran Androcles Scicluna says performing boosted his confidence
4/20 Christopher Cole
Christopher Cole, 51, from London, spent three years in the Army but left in 1982
5/20 Maurillia Simpson
Former servicewoman Maurillia Simpson with the medals she won at last year’s Invictus Games
Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard
6/20 Martin Rutledge
Head of The Soldiers’ Charity, Martin Rutledge, says charities sometimes allow emotion to dictate their choices
7/20 Ben Griffin
Ben Griffin wants to open people’s eyes to the cycle of political violence
8/20 Robin Horsfall
Robin Horsfall, who fought in the Falklands and helped end the Iranian embassy siege
9/20 Mark Hayward
A bed for the night and food helped Mark Hayward out of misfortune
10/20 Ashley Rosser
Ashley Rosser, who served in the RAF, at the Veterans Aid hostel in east London
11/20 Dave Henson
Britain's Invictus Games captain Dave Henson says veterans’ charities helped rebuild his life
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
12/20 Hugh Milroy
Hugh Milroy dispels myths about war-zone veterans through his work as the CEO of Veterans Aid
13/20 Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor
Former soldiers Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor work at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull under a covenant connecting veterans with employers
14/20 Mark McKillion
Mark McKillion's experience of living on the street eventually left him feeling as though the only way to escape was to end his life. He survived his desperate jump from Westminster Bridge, and VA's help has restored his "faith in humanity"
Nigel, a navy veteran, remembers living on the beach in the run-up to Christmas, when it rained every day for a week. He slept on a bench for seven years whilst suffering from Parkinson's disease.
16/20 Keith Cooper
Before Keith Cooper had his place confirmed at Avondale House in Newcastle, he was working out whether he could afford to buy a tent to live in
17/20 Simon Weston
Simon Weston, a Falklands War veteran, said even something as simple as a cup of tea can be an important step in getting the life of a homeless veteran back on track.
18/20 Ian Palmer, professor of military psychiatry
Ian Palmer, the first professor of military psychiatry to the British Armed Forces, says that the depiction of all ex-service personnel having post-traumatic stress disorder may stop people who really need help from getting it
19/20 Douglas Cameron
Evgeny Lebedev with Douglas Cameron, who had a hernia operation while serving in Burma
Johnnie Shand Kidd
20/20 Veterans Aid
General Sir Mike Jackson, President of ABF The Soldiers' Charity, called for donations to the Homeless Veterans appeal
No Second Night Out operates alongside the national call service StreetLink, which allows members of the public to report rough-sleepers to local council outreach teams across the country. Rough-sleepers reported through StreetLink are approached by local services and offered an assessment and reconnection service, as well as short-term temporary accommodation.
Mr Lebedev said: “We’ve seen compassionate London at its best tonight: brave care workers who care about the people no one else does, and show genuine courage on a daily basis.
“The Independent and Evening Standard’s Homeless Veterans campaign has attempted to draw attention to one group of vulnerable people out on the streets, but they’re not the only ones.”
He added: “It’s humbling to see the work done by all of these outreach services.
“That goes for government programmes and more targeted charity groups who help those that have served their country, yet afterwards find themselves destitute.”
* If you’re concerned about someone sleeping rough, get in touch with StreetLink so it can connect them to the local support and services they need. Contact 0300 500 0914, download the StreetLink app or make a referral via streetlink.org.ukReuse content