Shocked by the rise in homelessness, Chingford painter and decorator Adam Osen launched a campaign to eliminate it
Over this past winter major charities such as Crisis have spoken out following the publication of government statistics that show rough sleeping has increased by 16 percent in a year.
The number of London ‘hidden homeless’ – which includes any unrecorded people who are without a permanent dwelling – is estimated to be greater than 114,000. But these people do not show up in any official figures.
Waltham Forest currently ranks as the seventh most deprived borough in London, and while the ‘vast majority’ of homeless here are not sleeping rough (17 were recorded in the last three months of 2016 by charity St Mungo’s) there are still hundreds of hidden homeless.
These numbers appalled me, as I have for many years lobbied on issues relating to social injustice, and in 2010 stood for parliament in Chingford and Woodford Green as an independent candidate.
Once you start being aware, look at the number of people sleeping rough on our streets, and hear from people who have lost their home, or are living on a sofa, it becomes clear just how big this issue really is. What shocks me is why there is even a problem in the first place. This is a wealthy country, in the 21st Century, and yet adequate housing and services just aren’t sufficient to provide for basic human needs.
The lack of truly affordable housing for people is stark. In Waltham Forest the average property, according to the UK House Price Index, costs £438,294 – but the average salary is £30,900. It simply puts deposits for purchasing or renting beyond the reach of many people.
Homelessness can affect anyone. Lose your job, have a relationship breakdown, suffer from mental illness, and you’re there. It can mean losing your identity, the system breaks, and it becomes a trap.
So last year I decided to act; I raised a new national petition and campaign called ‘Eliminate Homelessness’. As a start, I recruited a homeless man off the streets to help me with my painting and decorating business. But getting signatures for the petition was a struggle. It needs to gain 10,000 names to secure me a meeting with Gavin Barwell, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning.
To help my campaign I turned to a local marketing consultant; Mark Elliott, managing director of Sparks4Growth Ltd. in Chingford. Since then, the number of signatures has trebled to more than 3,000 and is growing steadily.
Mark also secured the approval of Brighton folk band Levellers to use their track Our Forgotten Towns for a campaign video, which was mostly filmed in Station Road. Having experienced hard times in life themselves, the band were keen to get behind the campaign.
As bassist Jeremy Cunningham explained: “At one point or another all of the Levellers have been homeless. Luckily we had friends on the squat scene so it was very rare that we ever went without a roof over our heads, thankfully. But it gives us an inkling as to the plight of the homeless today – which is why we support Eliminate Homelessness. Raising awareness is essential.”
This support, along with the frugal use of a very small budget to drive social media, has driven the campaign’s profile much higher. I have been talking to volunteer groups, shelters, homeless people, Members of Parliament, not-for-profit organisations such as Foodinate, strategists such as Amy Varle, and members of the public in general.
I hope to soon secure national media coverage for the campaign, and with people’s help, eliminate homelessness once and for all.
An Eliminate Homelessness fundraiser is being hosted by Closet Vinyl at Mo-Bo Cocktail Bar, 160 Station Road, on Friday 3rd March. To buy tickets:
For information about the campaign, and to sign the petition:
Email [email protected]