My name is İbrahim Doğuş. I am a Labour councillor, Mayor of Lambeth and founder of With Love.
We’re here in the shadow of Waterloo station – a building whose history tells the story of our capital.
It was built in the 1840s to serve the largest city on the planet. Its memorial arch commemorates those London lost to the Great War. In 1994, the first Eurostar trains left platform 20 connecting us to our friends in Europe. In 2012, the station was a hub for our wonderful Olympic games.
But it saddens me that today, in 2019, it tells a story of austerity. A decade of national Government cuts has left record numbers of people sleeping rough in our capital where they are forced to take shelter from the cold and rain wherever they can find it – often here, around London Waterloo.
We see this every day under bridges and in alleyways, on street corners and on the tube.
I know you will feel like me: you want to help, but you’re not sure how.
We’re here this evening to show that we can all help.
With Love is this small, not-for-profit coffee shop. Our customers will be encouraged to buy discounted food and hot drinks, to be donated to someone who otherwise couldn’t afford them.
It won’t end homelessness. But providing warm food and warm conversation can make a real difference to the tired and the lonely.
And whilst we work to make giving easier, we’ll provide training opportunities for unemployed Londoners – building their skills and confidence, and paying them the London Living Wage.
It’s a daunting challenge to launch a new social enterprise in the heart of the city, handing out food and drink for free to those who need it, whilst investing time and money in London’s jobless.
But the space you’re standing in now has been made available for use rent-free, by landlords HB Reavis. This fresh interior was fitted out by Ben & Jerrys. Coca-Cola, Just Eat, Cobra Beer and Chef Online offered financial backing without hesitation.
I hope you’ll join me in thanking them for investing in the Londoners who need it most.
In my roles as Councillor and publisher of a local newspaper, Lambeth Life, I’ve seen the power of local communities when they come together to support each other.
But the truth is, this shouldn’t be necessary.
Last year more than 8,000 people were forced to sleep rough on the streets of London. As the Mayor of Lambeth, this worries me. As a citizen, it angers me. As a local businessman, it puzzles me.
We live in the most creative, dynamic, energetic city anywhere in the world – but we can’t find homes for social purpose for thousands, here on our doorsteps.
I applaud the efforts of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has made tackling homelessness a priority. But he is dealing with nearly 10 years of austerity imposed on a national level. Cuts to disability living allowance. Cuts to child benefit. Cuts to housing allowance. Cuts to social care budgets.
If we are going to put roofs over the heads of those who have none, things have to change. We have to end austerity nationwide. We must prove to those close to giving up that we haven’t given up on them.
And we must show that we can all help if we want to – and we will do it With Love.