Network Rail Launch Routes Out Of Homelessness

Network Rail has signed the first pan-industry homelessness charter as part of its work to help homeless people across Britain.

Network Rail Chief Executive Andrew Haines and Secretary of State Grant Shapps met yesterday (Wednesday 7 October) at London Paddington station, to sign the first pan-industry homelessness charter as part of a wide-reaching programme of efforts to support a route out of homelessness for every rough sleeper by 2027.

Through the Rough Sleeping on Rail Charter, Network Rail is working with five charity partners – Railway Children, End Youth Homelessness, Shelter, Crisis and The Big Issue Foundation – on a wide-reaching programme called Routes Out Of Homelessness. The programme will feature a number of events to raise awareness for the charities, as well as fundraising and a new outreach programme to support the Government’s ambitions to end rough sleeping by 2027.

The programme is being piloted by Shelter at Manchester Piccadilly and includes newly devoted outreach teams at stations who will help offer support to those in need whilst ensuring a safe environment for them, as well as railway staff and passengers. It will also launch at Birmingham New Street in December and more stations across 2021.

To mark the launch of the campaign, each of Network Rail’s regions has partnered with one of the charities to produce a piece of artwork for World Homelessness Day on Saturday 10 October.


Over two days, artist and The Big Issue vendor John Cahill painted a piece of artwork at London Paddington station. The design for John’s artwork is based around his time sleeping in a park under a tree and looking up at the stars, with the stars providing hope for John. The completed artwork will be handed over to Network Rail to then be installed in Reading station’s new Assisted Travel Lounge when it opens in 2021.

Artist and The Big Issue vendor, John Cahill, said:

“I left Middlesex University with a BA honours degree in illustration in 2006. Just as I was making headway with my career, I suffered a series of setbacks bringing my progression to an abrupt halt, and so I have been a Big Issue vendor ever since. I was also diagnosed as being on the Autistic Spectrum a few years ago. I continue to paint in my spare time and want to keep moving forward to my goal of becoming a professional artist.”

There will also be an accompanying exhibition displaying artwork available to purchase from The Big Issue Shop with each piece of artwork including a biography of the artist. The exhibition will be touring stations on the Western route starting at Paddington (8-22 Oct) before moving to Reading (22 Oct-5 Nov) and finishing at Bristol Temple Meads (5-19 Nov).

Through this partnership, Network Rail will help raise awareness, drive sales of artwork sold through the online shop and fundraise on behalf of, and alongside The Big Issue organisation and its vendors. Since the partnership first began in April 2019 over £16,000 has been raised.

Network Rail is also turning to the latest technology to further support its efforts in tackling homelessness. A number of stations are in the process of installing contactless TAP readers that enable people to make a £3 contactless donation via their credit or debit card through a network of contactless donation points in windows and on hand-held devices.

Tracy Griffin, CEO of The Big Issue Foundation, commented:

“The Big Issue Foundation is delighted to be one of the supporting charity partners of Network Rail’s ‘Routes out of Homelessness’.

“We look forward to officially launching the partnership at Paddington station, alongside Big Issue vendor and artist, John Cahill, who has been creating live art at the station. The station is also hosting an art exhibition featuring art by artists that have been previously homeless – all available to buy on the Big Issue Shop. Everyone deserves a home. We are looking forward to working with Network Rail over the next four years to provide opportunities to improve the lives of many over the coming years.”


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