Record number of people sleeping rough in London

Charities say ‘appalling’ surge in homelessness caused by lack of affordable housing

A record number of people are sleeping rough in London, with charities reporting a spike in street homelessness.

Figures show that 3,103 people were found sleeping rough in the capital between July and September 2018 – the first time the total has exceeded 3,000 in a three-month period. Charities attributed the surge to a lack of affordable housing.

The data, from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network, shows the number of rough sleepers has risen by 20% on the previous three months, and by 17% compared with the same period last year.

Over the same period, outreach teams recorded 1,382 people sleeping rough for the first time, up by 28% on the previous period and a rise of 20% compared with last year.

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of the charity Crisis, said: “This appalling spike in the number of people forced to sleep rough in London is a disaster for every single person experiencing life on the streets. Across the capital, local authorities are struggling with increasing numbers of people new to the streets, which is why the root cause of the problem must be tackled.

“We cannot carry on like this when we know homelessness is not inevitable. We don’t have have enough affordable housing that homeless people can access.”

Homeless Link’s chief executive, Rick Henderson, said: “It is alarming to see such a dramatic rise in the number of people sleeping rough in London … We need to ask ourselves some tough questions about why so many are finding themselves with little choice but to bed down on the streets.”

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found more than 440 homeless people died on streets or in temporary accommodation in the UK in the past year. Among those who died since October 2017 was a former solider, an astrophysicist and a Big Issue seller.

The inquiry found 69% of deaths were men, 21% were women and no gender was recorded for the remaining 10%. January was the deadliest month, when at least 33 people died.

Charities have called the deaths a national disgrace and blamed soaring homelessness on austerity, expensive private rents and a lack of social housing. They said local authorities should investigate every death.

The figures are likely to be a substantial underestimate as no official organisation counts the deaths of homeless people in Britain. Data shows there were at least 449 deaths in a year – more than one per day.

An investigation by the Guardian in April found that at least 230 deaths of homeless people were recorded by local authorities in the UK between 2013 and 2017.

Responding to the London figures, the minister for housing and homelessness, Heather Wheeler, said: “We have set out bold plans backed by £100m to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027, as part of a £1.2bn investment in tackling all forms of homelessness.

“We are also working closely with London boroughs and the Greater London Authority and are providing them with £23.3m through our Rough Sleeping Initiative. With this funding, we are looking to them to deliver critical support to get people off the streets.”


Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

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