Khan pledges to ‘eliminate’ rough sleeping in London by 2030

The number of people living on the streets has risen significantly since he became mayor but Khan says he is determined to reduce it, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

A Labour campaign event held on Monday (credit Noah Vickers/LDRS)
A Labour campaign event held on Monday (credit Noah Vickers/LDRS)

Sadiq Khan on Monday (15th) pledged to “eliminate” rough sleeping in London by 2030 – despite the number of people living on the streets having risen significantly since he became mayor.

While 8,096 people were recorded sleeping rough in the capital during Boris Johnson’s final year as mayor (2015/16), the figure was 24% higher in 2022/23, at 10,053 people.

The latest data, covering October to December 2023, shows 4,389 people sleeping rough – the highest quarterly rough sleeping count recorded in London outside of a pandemic since detailed data started in 2014.

Khan suggested that it would not be possible to end rough sleeping in the capital without a Labour government supporting him.

In January, more than 300 refugees ended up on the streets after being evicted from Home Office hotels, a situation described by London Councils as “deeply alarming”. It said there had been a 32% increase in rough sleepers in the last year, with the capital the worst affected part of the country.

On an average night, more than 1,100 people will be sleeping rough in the capital. Familiar locations include Tottenham Court Road, where the population of tent dwellers appears to have increased. Many others can be found asleep on the Night Tube at weekends.

At the end of Mr Khan’s first term in 2021, rough sleeping had fallen 19% year on year.

Monday’s manifesto commitment – trailed in his TV election broadcast earlier this month – aims to “condemn the scandal of rough sleeping to history” in London – but not until two years after the next four-year mayoral term ends in 2028.

Khan said the reason for this deadline was because the promise had been “synced” up with national rather than mayoral politics.

“It’s possible the general election won’t be until January 2025,” he said. “The parliamentary term is five years, and so we’ve synced the pledge with the next Labour government’s timelines.”

City Hall already spends more than £36m a year on homelessness services.

Khan plans to boost this by a total of £10m over the next three years and double to six the number of “ending homelessness hubs” across the capital.

By 2028, he wants to help at least 1,700 rough sleepers off the streets and provide specialist assessment and support to help people rebuild their lives.

Khan, who was speaking in Waterloo – known as “cardboard city” in the 1980s – on Monday morning, pledged to “end the indignity, fear and isolation felt by those forced to endure a life on the street once and for all”.

He said it was time “to reject the notion that homelessness is some natural, stubborn feature of modern life that we have no option but to abide” and “condemn the scandal of rough sleeping to history, not just for a short time but for all time”.

Referring to the last Labour government, he said: “We came close before. This time we will see it through.”

He said the lack of housing meant that one child in every London classroom was “without a place they can call home”.

But Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall said: “This is yet another promise that Sadiq Khan will fail to deliver, given his appalling record on housing.

“Sadiq Khan has only started building four per cent of the affordable homes he promised in the latest programme, and it is his failure that has kept people stuck in temporary accommodation and made it harder to get rough sleepers off the streets.

“We cannot solve homelessness without solving the housing crisis, which is why I have pledged to build more family homes Londoners can afford.”

According to Labour, more than 16,000 rough sleepers have been helped off the streets since 2016. Three quarters of those who received support have not been seen sleeping rough again.

The mayor suggested that the promise to end rough sleeping would not be possible without Labour in power nationally.

He said: “The causes of rough sleeping we can’t deal with without a change of government. We know the causes of rough sleeping. One out of four people sleeping rough was formerly a tenant in private [rented] accommodation – that’s why ‘no fault’ evictions have got to go.

“We also know some of the welfare benefits changes made by the government have been a source for those sleeping rough. That’s got to go as well.

“If there’s a Labour government, we’ll have 1.5 million new homes [over five years] across the country. [We’ll get a] big chunk of those in London.

“In relation to landlord licensing, if we had a Labour government, we could have better quality accommodation across London, which would make it less likely for people to have to leave their homes.”

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