If you’re looking for any further evidence that December’s general election must look beyond Brexit and at wider issues – the latest rough sleeping figures from London’s CHAIN show the full extent of the “crisis on our streets”.
The statistics show that there were 2,069 people newly sleeping rough on London’s streets between July and September this year – a third more than the previous quarter and up from 1,382 in the same period last year. That means that more than 20 people slept rough for the first time in London every night over the three-month period.
The figures are put together by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network – a multi-agency database that is thought to be the most comprehensive source of information on rough sleeping in London.
"A crisis on our streets."
— St Mungo's (@StMungos) October 31, 2019
They also showed that half of rough sleepers encountered by frontline teams had a mental health need – with 48 per cent found to be UK nationals and 52 per cent of people originating from outside the UK.
To St Mungo’s chief executive Howard Sinclair, the figures represent a “national scandal” and he points the finger at successive governments – which should be a stark warning to the politicians about to hit the campaign trail ahead of the election.
“There is a rough sleeping crisis on our streets, not just in London, but across the country. This is a national scandal,” he said.
“This is down to the failure of successive governments to tackle the systemic causes of homelessness.
“Charities can’t tackle this alone and we urgently need the government to take bold action and a longer-term view.
“Put back the £1bn a year that’s been cut from homelessness services over the last decade, increase housing benefit so it covers the cost of rent, fund specialist housing support for non-UK nationals sleeping rough and end this scandal of death and destitution.”
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
Although the official rough sleeping figures released by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government showed a drop of 74 people living on the streets across the country, they also highlighted a spike in London with a three per cent rise at last count.
This chimes with the newly released CHAIN figures that Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said were a sign that “this inhuman treatment cannot go on” as he urged political parties to back scrapping the Vagrancy Act.
Also responding to the CHAIN statistics, Imogen Farhan, a researcher for think tank Reform, said: “The spike in rough sleepers across London adds to the evidence that current government policy is not working.
“An absence of long-term funds for council services has meant that the Homelessness Reduction Act and the Rough Sleeping Strategy, which were meant to bolster efforts to prevent homelessness, have failed to do so in the capital.”
Between July and September this year 2,069 people in London slept rough for the first time. To make matters worse, they also face the threat of being persecuted using the archaic Vagrancy Act, which makes it a crime just to sleep rough or beg. https://t.co/kmEovYAz2X pic.twitter.com/1kri5gC5i6
— Crisis (@crisis_uk) October 31, 2019
Meanwhile, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham also released his own Greater Manchester Combined Authority figures last week insisting that a local count of 195 rough sleepers in October was down on the official count from the same time last year.
A total of 241 people were recorded as sleeping rough in the official figures which, like London, represented a rise despite the overall fall nationally.