Rough sleeping across London up by 33% in a year

Between January and March 4,118 people spent a night sleeping rough in the capital, up from the 3,107 people in the same period last year, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Rough sleeping is on the rise
Rough sleeping in Tottenham

Rough sleeping in London is up by a third compared with this time last year, according to the latest data.

New statistics covering January to March of this year show that 4,118 people spent at least one night sleeping rough in the capital, a 33 per cent rise from the 3,107 people recorded in the same period of 2023.

Those sleeping rough for the first time accounted for almost half (49%) of the total recorded, comprising 2,038 people.

Nick Redmore, director of homeless services at the Salvation Army charity, said: “The numbers of people sleeping rough is increasing year on year and won’t decline without urgent government intervention.

“People often end up sleeping rough because of abuse, trauma, addiction, or poor mental health. To end rough sleeping, it’s crucial to invest in services that help people tackle the root causes that forced them onto the streets in the first place. However, funding for these support services has been repeatedly cut and cannot meet the rising demand.

“The Salvation Army helps people who are sleeping rough every day. We do this in various ways including providing emergency temporary accommodation to keep people safe and warm and opening our doors for hot meals, drop-in support, and signposting to appropriate services.

“Unless immediate government action is taken, we fear the number of people sleeping rough on the streets will continue to increase.”

The latest data, published by London’s Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), shows that only 44% of the capital’s rough sleepers are UK nationals.

Citizens of Romania make up the second-largest cohort (9%), followed by Eritrea (6%), Poland (5%) and Sudan (5%). The percentages exclude the 9% of rough sleepers whose nationalities were not identified.

Earlier this month, London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan vowed if he is re-elected to “eliminate” rough sleeping in the capital by 2030, though he said it would not be possible to meet this promise without Labour in power nationally too.

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.”

Asked about rough sleeping and its causes last week, Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall said: “There is no simple answer to homelessness.

“Mental health issues sometimes cause it, sometimes family breakdowns cause it, we’ve got veterans very sadly on the streets.

“There are so many different reasons for homelessness, but the answer is we’ve got to build more homes, more properties, that people can live in.”

The Salvation Army said that in the short term, a change is needed to homelessness legislation in England so that all rough sleepers are added to the ‘priority need list’ for emergency and then longer-term housing but, in the longer term, the priority need list should be abolished so everyone who is homeless can be helped.

The charity said it also wants to see a commitment to a sustained investment and increase in housing stock and especially social housing across the UK.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been approached for comment.

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