Opinion: Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz on tackling homelesseness

Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz is planning to set up a task force to tackle homelessness.

Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz is planning to set up a task force to tackle homelessness. - Credit: Rokhsana Fiaz

Last week my cabinet colleagues and I took another step towards creating a task force to find a long term solution to the increasing levels of rough sleeping and street homelessness in the borough.

We agreed draft terms of reference that the task force should focus on immediate and long-term change, but that whatever it sets out to achieve, it must do so with care and compassion with people treated with dignity.

Not helping the homeless and rough sleeping communities is not an option.

We've already done much by increasing the number of our own outreach workers, and improving advice and support, which saw rough sleeping decline by 39 per cent.

But the council cannot solve this humanitarian crisis alone.

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We will be working with partners like charity groups, experts, the GLA, ward councillors, and people with lived experience of homelessness to develop a strategy that can deal with the many complex issues that lead people to the streets.

The task force will initially focus on the Stratford Centre where the problem is most acute.

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The mall is unique in the UK because, for historical reasons, it remains a public highway which cannot shut its doors at night.

As a result it attracts vulnerable homeless and rough sleeping people - but it is not a safe environment for anyone to bed down.

As the homeless crisis in Britain escalates due to the government's broken housing policy, and the assault on the benefits system, homelessness is on the rise everywhere.

The situation is not going away so our work will start immediately.

It is a basic human right to be able to put a roof over your head, and we are determined to find a solution to this appalling and horrifying situation.

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