Today, I was lucky enough to accompany Jonathan Bartley, Green Party candidate for Streatham, to a visit to The Spires centre. Spires is a South London based charity that helps hundreds of homeless and disadvantaged people all year round. They work to improve the quality of life of people who are homeless, insecurely housed, unemployed or suffering from the effects of poverty, mental ill health and loneliness.
Jon and I were given a tour of the services and given a chance to meet and have a chat with some of the people who use the services on offer about their concerns and needs. It was clear just how invaluable the centre is to the clients there, with people telling us that they travel from as far away as Croydon and Vauxhall in order to get help there.
The range of help on offer is diverse and staff said that it was never just one problem that resulted in homelessness for their clients, but a range of different issues, all contributing to their situations. They told us that the problem of homelessness needs to be tackled holistically. Staff also told us that they were seeing ever-increasing numbers of people accessing their services, the problem being exacerbated by lack of access to affordable housing, with the uncontrolled housing and rental market in London, zero hours contracts and drastic cuts in rough sleeping and substance misuse services. Spires offers a range of help and developmental services through the centre and also holds outreach sessions, enabling users of the centre to move away from the chaos of the streets and towards greater lifestyle stability for a more hopeful future.