Former rough sleepers are being hired by local charities to help others off the streets – thanks to funding provided by Westminster residents.
The extra help for rough sleepers has been made possible by Westminster City Council’s community contribution fund. The scheme, launched in March this year, involves asking the top Band ‘H’ householders to voluntarily pay an extra element alongside their council tax.
Westminster City Council today confirms that the scheme has already raised nearly £400,000. Those donating have picked three priorities for the money to go on – people sleeping on Westminster’s streets; youth support and tackling isolation across the generations.
The money being raised will go towards:
Just over 15,000 letters are this week being sent to those Band H householders who did not respond to an initial letter this year outlining how the community contribution scheme works.
Cllr Nickie Aiken, leader of Westminster City Council, said: “When we first floated the idea of a community contribution scheme, cynics said it would flop, and that wealthy householders didn’t care what happened in their neighbourhoods.
“The hundreds of thousands of pounds being allocated today shows they do care – and they are quite specific what they want this money to go towards. What began life as an experiment based on our gut instinct is turning into a solid way of helping Westminster’s wider community.
“A lot of band H householders may have been unconvinced or uncertain how this scheme would work. We are writing to them again to say; ‘This is the kind of thing money raised is going towards – do you want to think about making a contribution?’
“I think everyone will see the value of this work. Isolation in the heart of the capital may seem an odd thing, but we know lots of people do feel it. The expectation is that this is mainly a problem for elderly people, but teenagers and children can suffer too. In the midst of a city of millions, there are people who feel on the margins and we want to help.”
All projects that receive funding must be completed within 15 months and have to operate in Westminster.
Spending decisions are made by the City of Westminster Charitable Trust, a seven-member organisation which oversees the money raised.
Charitable status allows those giving money to use Gift Aid.
One current Westminster ‘Buddy’, former rough sleeper Richard Simpson, today said he believed the community contribution funding would help get real results on the streets.
Richard said: “What happened to me could happen to anyone. Sometimes it can take a couple of months to earn the trust of someone you’re trying to support. But they know that we’ve been through some of the same experiences as them, so they’re more inclined to listen to us. We can get them engaged with some of the services.
“It’s great that money raised from the community contribution is going towards a project like the one I benefited from. It means getting direct help to those on the streets and a lifeline to a better future."