Westminster City Council has launched its ‘Hidden Network’ initiative and campaign promoting the alliance of dedicated professionals and volunteers working around the clock to end rough sleeping in the London borough of Westminster. The Hidden Network provide life-changing and long-term solutions to constructively support people that are sleeping rough. These solutions include counselling, befriending and addiction recovery, assistance with securing ongoing employment and accommodation. The campaign marks the beginning of a of a major Westminster City Council initiative to encourage the public to give their money to a network of charities specialised in helping rough sleepers to turn their lives around. A key message of the campaign will be that giving money to rough sleepers – while done with good intentions – often has the effect of keeping people on the streets.
“I absolutely understand that people can feel moved to offer money direct to those on the streets. But, as former rough sleepers and experts working with them will tell you, that can just perpetuate the life-threatening cycle of street life.
We are not telling people what to do with their money. We are simply providing information that shows a better way to help people off the streets for good so when people do give, they do as an informed choice.”
Councillor Nickie Aiken, leader of Westminster City Council
The Hidden Network is compiled of the “army” of staff and volunteers who work with people who find themselves on the street for whatever reason including suffering mental illness, battling addiction, family breakdown or abuse. The campaign, which commences today, includes stories of those working on the frontline, many of whom are former rough sleepers themselves who have now dedicated themselves to helping others.
The aim is to illustrate that it is far more effective to end rough sleeping by donating to six Westminster charities rather than directly to the person. The six charities that make up the Hidden Network are:
Among the outstanding services available is West London Mission (WLM), a group of day centres and specialist high care residential units that are run by highly driven and informed individuals who work to empower people affected by homelessness, poverty and trauma to live more fulfilling lives every day with affordable counselling, financial and digital skills, addiction and AA groups, as well as housing. In fact, one of WLM Seymour Place, one of the charity’s day centres, is an active member on the Marble Arch London BID Community Panel, regularly partners with the BID’s Community Programme and is featured in our popular Hidden Heroes initiative
Westminster Council is also working with local shops and businesses to encourage them to install special contactless card readers where people can tap and donate which will go directly to the charities working with rough sleepers. If you’re in the Marble Arch London BID area and are interested in housing one of these contactless card readers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.