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London's homeless services get 80% of rough sleepers off streets 'for good'

Despite the large numbers of people being supported in London, rough sleeping in the capital has risen significantly in the past three years

Sadiq Khan launches TAP London contactless donation scheme

Sadiq Khan launches TAP London contactless donation scheme. Image credit: London Mayor's office

Eight in ten rough sleepers helped by homelessness services in the capital have left the streets for good, according to new data released by London’s local leaders.

Official figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) showed that 10,921 people have been helped by services commissioned by City Hall, the headquarters of the mayor’s office and the London Assembly, since May 2016.

These services included the Rapid Response homeless outreach team, which becomes active to secure emergency accommodation when temperatures fall below freezing and the Everyone In scheme which gave rough sleepers across the country a place to stay during the height of the pandemic. 

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But London mayor Sadiq Khan, who is up for re-election in May, said more action was needed from central Government to end the homelessness crisis for good. 

“The fact that we have had to help so many people off the streets, and that we still have far to go to end rough sleeping in our city, is deeply concerning,” the mayor said in a statement. 

“It shows the danger of inadequate social security safety nets, a lack of affordable housing and the consequences of deep cuts to homelessness services since 2010.

“I’ll continue to campaign for Government Ministers to step up and show the scale of commitment to ending rough sleeping that we’re demonstrating in London.” 

Despite the large numbers of people being supported in London, rough sleeping in the capital has risen significantly in the past three years. 

CHAIN figures show the number of people rough sleeping remained relatively flat between 2014 and 2017 before rising significantly in 2018.

The latest figures, released in January 2021, showed a nine per cent fall, but experts said there were “warning signs” more people were becoming homeless, with more than 1,600 sleeping rough for the first time. 

CHAIN figures Jan 2021
Despite the drop in the number of people seen sleeping rough in London, charities have warned against complacency. Source: CHAIN

Khan said the Everyone In programme housed more than 2,500 rough sleepers in Greater London Authority accommodation, with 86 per cent staying off the streets for good. 

He also praised outreach workers, charity teams, healthcare professionals and council staff as “unsung heroes” in helping the most vulnerable.

Fiona Colley, director of StreetLink, which lets members of the public point rough sleepers towards services that can support them, said the charity was “proud” to have played a part in moving people away from homelessness for good. 

“To ensure we can help even more individuals, we encourage members of the public to continue to send alerts to StreetLink when they see someone sleeping rough, to connect them to local support,” she said. 

Cllr Darren Rodwell, the housing spokesperson for London Councils’ and leader of Barking and Dagenham council, added: “Tackling homelessness and rough sleeping remains a key challenge for London as we look forward to the post-pandemic recovery and boroughs are working tirelessly to support Londoners who find themselves without a roof over their heads. 

“Close partnerships between City Hall, charities, and boroughs’ services have helped bring thousands of rough sleepers off London’s streets, but we still face the most severe housing crisis in the country. 

“If we’re to make faster and sustained progress on this vital issue, we urgently need the government to improve the welfare system’s ability to prevent homelessness and to give local homelessness services the long-term funding they require to make the most impact.”

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