Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, was still a schoolboy when his family was made homeless.

“For me, not having a home growing up, it had a massive impact,” he describes.

“I remember going to secondary school and not telling anyone that we were staying with my mum’s friends or with my nan.

“You never tell anybody because it’s so embarrassing and humiliating.”

Egan’s own experience as a child has shaped his understanding of families living in poverty – which he believes is partly caused by a broken system.

“When people think of homeless people in their head, they just imagine street homeless but people don’t see the impact homelessness has on families.”

The mayor estimates that about 80 per cent of families made homeless in the borough have been pushed out by private landlords who have put up rent beyond what they receive in housing benefit.

“That’s what drives me, we genuinely have to provide so much more social housing for people,” he tells News Shopper.

Since he took office in May 2018, Egan has pledged to build 1,000 new social homes across the borough by 2022.

But while progress is being made, he admits: “I’m not going to pretend we’re where we need to be.”

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In March, he admitted the council's planning department needed to be more "robust" to meet social housing targets.

In his pledge to provide for more families in need, the mayor stresses the importance of maintaining good quality social housing.

“I’ve been to Lewisham Homes and other housing association blocks which I feel fall short of the mark,” he admits.

“I really hate when it’s obvious which is social housing and which isn’t.

“I remember that from when my mum got her council flat. You feel different and even more embarrassed.”

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As child poverty stats show 40 per cent of kids in Deptford living below the breadline, Egan fears Britain is moving towards “a Victorian society.”

He says: “We’re relying more and more on the community sector. It’s wonderful that we’ve got those people who want to help but it shouldn’t be necessary.

“People shouldn’t have to drop food parcels off at libraries and at the council to feed other people in the borough – it’s not acceptable.”

He criticises the system of universal credit for worsening poverty among the vulnerable.

“Just by making very honest mistakes you find yourself penalised.

“There’s a five-week wait for universal credit – but who can wait that long?

“The fact that the most vulnerable people have to wait five weeks is inhuman.”

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A DWP spokeswoman insisted no one needs to wait for their first payment on universal credit, with the option to have an advance of 100 per cent from the first day of a claim.

However, Egan blames years of austerity for the rise in poverty after making consistent cuts to public services.

“The cuts in youth provision that have been happening since 2010 means young people and kids are suffering most."

He thinks Lewisham has good support for kids in need, but says "it's a fight to keep it going."

"It can’t all be done through the voluntary sector. We need money.”

The council is working with young people and parents in the borough to educate kids and train them up for their careers.

It has also signed up 77 businesses in the borough to pay the living wage, with an aim to reach 100 employers by May 2022.

Egan’s calls for more funding from central government come months after its ex-CEO Ian Thomas left the council with a £185,000 payout.

Despite this, the mayor insists the council has cut staffing costs to save money and to “protect the front line.”

However, he also admits many young people in the borough are struggling as a result of austerity and has offered to work with the government to address the needs of Lewisham’s youngsters.