Homeless activists hold protest to draw attention to Londoners out in the cold

London’s Homeless Helpers group organized a walking protest through downtown London this morning to call on the city to find immediate solutions to make sure no one is out in the cold. Sawyer Bogdan / 980 CFPL

A group of homeless advocates in London is calling for a “right now plan” to address the number of Londoners sleeping on the streets.

London’s Homeless Helpers organized a walking protest through downtown London Friday morning to call on the city to find immediate solutions to make sure no one is out in the cold.

Two months ago, the city revealed a draft of its Housing Stability Action Plan (HSAP) to tackle homelessness on a more permanent basis over the next five years.

Around two dozen people participated in the demonstration through downtown London.

Homeless activist Misty Craig said those out in the cold can’t wait five years.

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“There has to be a solution other than leaving them on the street and then kicking them off the street because you don’t want them there,” she said.

Craig is suggesting the city look at allowing things like tent cities or opening up unused spaces like abandoned buildings, churches or school gymnasiums.

“I know they are working on change and I am not trying to take away from what they are doing, but we do need something right now.”

According to the HSAP, more people than ever are experiencing homelessness in London, with 2,400 individuals and families accessing emergency shelters each year.

READ MORE: London is rethinking how it addresses homelessness and housing instability

According to the city, a minimum of 3,000 new affordable housing units are needed in London to meet current and future needs.

London manager of homeless prevention Craig Cooper said the city is in the process of opening up more warming stations.

He said the city has 10 resting spaces and is opening 10 more day and night spaces by the end of January, as well as working on getting two new housing programs up and running in the next couple of weeks.

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“Our focus is housing people, not perpetuating homelessness, so we are really focused on solutions to create a pathway out of homelessness, and their focus is a little bit more providing a place for people right now,” Cooper said.

Through the new housing programs, Cooper said the city is hoping to get around 550 homeless people into permanent housing.

Right now, he said the city is permanently housing around 30 people a month, which Cooper added will hopefully double or even triple as the new programs get up and running.

Cooper added that overall, the chronic homeless numbers for the city have dropped by 15 per cent in the last year.

“We are not looking to house people. We are looking to find them their home and ensure long-term tenancy in their home.”

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