News 

Boris and Evgeny sleep rough in London

As part of the campaign from the Evening Standard, Independent, i and London Live to raise awareness of the plight of Homeless Veterans, London mayor Boris Johnson and owner of the papers Evgeny Lebedev spent a night this weekend rough-sleeping on a London street.

Armed with just a sleeping bag and sheet of cardboard each, and away from the glare of the media, Mr Johnson and Mr Lebedev visited some of the outreach programmes run by London charity St Mungo’s Broadway on Friday, before bedding down for the night on a pavement on Gresham Street, five minutes walk from St Paul’s Cathedral, in an attempt to experience as closely as possible the reality faced by many of today’s veterans.

The pair decided to sleep on the streets in order to raise awareness of how to help those genuinely forced into rough-sleeping, as part of the titles’ pledge to back the charities ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Veterans Aid for this year’s Christmas appeal. Both charities support veterans who are struggling and at risk of falling into homelessness, as well as reaching out to those who were homeless but are now re-building their lives.

Alongside raising awareness, fundraising efforts have seen a series of online auctions, powered by eBay, offering readers the chance to bid on a variety of exclusive lots, which have included a tour with De Beers of the world’s richest diamond mine in Botswana, a private tour of Edinburgh Castle with lunch served in the officers’ mess, and a visit to the iconic manufacturing home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood.

Mr Johnson gave his support to the appeal on Saturday morning, saying: “People who have served our country in the most difficult and unimaginable situations deserve all the help we can give them.

“We have made a demonstrable difference in decreasing the number of veterans out on the streets in the last two decades, but it’s tragic to learn how many there still are out there,” he added.

“It’s wonderful to see the work being done by institutions helping those out in the cold, and we can’t give them our thanks enough,” said Mr Johnson.

Mr Lebedev, owner of the Independent titles and London Evening Standard, said: “We’ve seen compassionate London at its best tonight: brave careworkers who care about people no-one else does, and show genuine courage on a daily basis.

“The Independent and Evening Standard’s Homeless Veterans campaign has attempted to draw attention to one group of vulnerable people out on the streets, but they’re not the only ones.

He added: “It’s humbling to see the work done by all off these outreach services. That goes for government programmes like No Second Night Out who provide a rapid response to new rough sleepers, to more targeted charity groups like Veterans Aid [the Homeless Veterans campaign’s charity partner], who help those that have served their country, yet afterwards find themselves destitute.”