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London's hub

November 01 2010
We look into the announcement of a central homeless assessment centre

A new 'hub' for rough sleepers in London is being planned under the London Delivery Board's 'No Second Night Out' (NSNO) plan. This policy, which aims to help those newly on the street to get indoors after one night, is itself part of the target to end rough sleeping in the capital by 2012.

Little detail is yet available on the precise nature of this hub, even where it will be based; but it will be a central point for those sleeping out to be taken to. Those taken in will, if necessary, be able to sleep there for up to three nights.

Additionally, a 24-hour hotline is included, which will allow members of the public to report those sleeping rough so that an outreach team will be able to pick them up.

It is unclear whether additional funds are being allocated to this project, as seems unlikely in these times of cuts, or whether it will come from a shift in existing funding and by moving staff from current locations. However, Richard Blakeway, chair of the London Delivery Board and the mayor's director of housing, told Inside Housing: "If this requires additional resources, then they will be found".

Few concerns have been voiced over the proposed hub because of the lack of detail. It remains to be seen what action will be taken if some rough sleepers refuse to go to a central location with the people sent to assess them. Crucially, the part the police will play in the hub, and whether they'll be taking people to it, is unknown.

The Pavement got this response from Jeremy Swain, chief executive of charity Thames Reach, in reply to questions about the operation of the hub on the social networking site Twitter: "Aim is to help ppl off street quickly + then assess what support they need. Hope police will be able to refer to hub too."

Alison Gelder, director of Housing Justice, allayed some fears that readers may have about the hub, telling The Pavement: "I keep hearing that it is all a plan to sweep undesirables off the streets and out of sight of the Olympic crowds, and I keep saying that this really is not the objective of the plans.

"The aim is to get as close to ending street homelessness as possible, and to create a city where no one needs to sleep rough. The people doing the planning care about homeless people and want them to have the best possible options for getting off the street. NSNO is a trial of how this might be accomplished. It won't be perfect because it's a pilot and is there to be learned from and improved, but it will test the extent to which it's possible to stop people becoming habituated into the culture of street sleeping. So the hub is an answer to the question: what do we do the second time we are in contact with someone sleeping rough any where in London? The details of what it will be like, how people will be taken there (including whether it is appropriate to use force), and what options will be offered to them once they are there, are still being worked out."

She added: "Perhaps Pavement readers have some suggestions to offer? What would have made a difference for them on their second night out?"

Email or post suggestions to us, at the address on page 3, and we'll forward them to Ms Gelder.