Rough sleeping in London has hit a record high, new figures suggest, stoking fears that a crisis in homelessness in the capital is “spiralling out of control”.
According to the latest CHAIN figures, 4,086 people were counted sleeping rough between July and September 2023. This represents a 12% increase on the same period the previous year, and is London’s highest quarterly rough sleeping count since records began.
Furthermore, 2,086 people were recorded as sleeping rough for the first time in London. This is a 29% increase on the previous quarter, and a 13% increase on the same period in 2022.
According to the figures, almost half (49%) had mental health needs, while over 550 (14%) were aged 55 or above,
The organisation London Councils, which represents boroughs in the capital, has expressed concern that – as the winter months approach – pressures on local homelessness services will become “unsustainable”.
Councillor Darren Rodwell, the organisation’s executive member for regeneration, housing and planning, said: “This spike in rough sleeping numbers is the latest evidence of London’s worsening homelessness crisis.
“After several years of solid progress in reducing rough sleeping, it is devastating to see rough sleeping skyrocket to a record high. Local support services are under immense pressure and the situation is spiralling out of control.
“Tackling rough sleeping requires a range of policy measures, as well as close partnerships between different agencies and long-term funding commitments for the frontline services keeping people off the streets. The government must work with councils and other key partners to address these matters urgently, otherwise this winter looks set to be extremely bleak.”
Gruelling and dangerous
Charity Homeless Link has also expressed concern about the situation revealed by the latest figures, calling the increase in rough sleeping “tragic and shameful”.
Fiona Colley, the charity’s director of social change, said: “The number of new people being forced to sleep rough in London is both tragic and shameful.
“The city is acutely impacted by the critical shortage of affordable homes, prolonged inflation and soaring rents being suffered up and down the country.
“With social housing so scarce, people have no option but to turn to the expensive private rented sector. However, the government has chosen to freeze Local Housing Allowance (LHA) – the benefit which should support private tenants on low incomes – for the past three years, leaving many unable to afford a roof over their heads. It is no wonder that rough sleeping is so high, yet it is entirely preventable.”
Matt Downie, chief executive of homelessness charity, Crisis added: “Rough sleeping is gruelling and dangerous. Yet, [these] figures show that a devastating lack of support combined with crippling rents and high living costs is continuing to push thousands onto the capital’s streets.
“Make no mistake, the Westminster government’s target of ending rough sleeping by next year is now completely out of reach. But we must not give up and just accept more and more people forced to sleep on our streets. We need a different approach from the government to ensure more people aren’t forced to bed down in a cold doorway this winter.”
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