A new charter tackling street homelessness has been drawn up by the UK Government, Network Rail and British Transport Police.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines and British Transport Police assistant chief constable Charlie Doyle signed the first pan-industry homelessness charter at London Paddington station as part of a wide-reaching programme of efforts to support a route out of homelessness for every person sleeping rough around the rail network.
The government is committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and ending rough sleeping for good, and the rail industry is to play its part by introducing this charter, setting out how it will help safeguard vulnerable people and communities by working closely together with charities to create bespoke plans and by training station staff so they can give the right advice and support to people sleeping rough around the railway.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “We know that homelessness is a real problem and many vulnerable people are drawn to the rail network. We are committed to working with communities and charities to improve how we work together to address the challenges involved in supporting some of the country’s most marginalised people.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “Everybody should have the safety, comfort and security of a home. For those sleeping rough in our railway stations, particularly as we approach winter, life can be cold, challenging and uncertain.
“This new charter demonstrates the rail industry is committed to taking meaningful action. Having helped take StreetLink online with the popular app as Housing Minister, I’m delighted that it will now be used to increase reporting of rough sleeping in order to rapidly bring expert help to those who are vulnerable.
“We must fight homelessness on all fronts, and I am proud the railways are playing their part in our ultimate ambition of ending rough sleeping within this Parliament.”
Charlie Doyle, assistant chief constable at British Transport Police, said: “Tackling homelessness on the railway and helping those in need is a very important issue to us, and we welcome this charter to galvanise the collective efforts of Industry, police and partners to support often the most vulnerable people with a route out of homelessness.
“As part of our commitment to this cause we continue to work with industry and charitable partners to support outreach provision and our officers and staff are encouraged to use the StreetLink app in the course of their patrols. In addition, I would encourage the travelling public to download and use the App to sign-post when and where they see those in need of help. This simple action may change someone’s life.”
Network Rail has partnered with The Big Issue Foundation, Crisis, End Youth Homelessness, Railway Children and Shelter to focus on this important societal issue. The national Routes out of Homelessness initiative will feature a number of events to raise awareness for the charities, as well as fundraising and a new outreach programme at stations to support the government’s ambitions to end rough sleeping.
The outreach programme is being piloted by Shelter at Manchester Piccadilly and includes new dedicated outreach teams at stations who will help offer support to those in need whilst ensuring a safe environment for them, as well as railway staff and passengers. It will also launch at Birmingham New Street in December and further stations in 2021.
Murals representing each of the charities were unveiled today at Glasgow Central, Leeds, London Charing Cross and Manchester Piccadilly to mark the occasion ahead of World Homeless Day this Saturday. A piece will also be created live by artist and Big Issue vendor John Cahill at London Paddington today (Thursday) and will be installed in Reading station’s new Assisted Travel Lounge when it opens in 2021.
Main photo above: Andrew Haines, Grant Shapps and Charlie Doyle signing homelessness charter