Housing

Rough sleeping in London down by a quarter in the last year

London Mayor Sadiq Khan warns cost of living crisis ‘threatens to reverse hard-won gains’.

rough sleeping homelessness

Rough sleeping in London has fallen by a quarter in the last year. Image: Dan Burton / Unsplash

The number of people seen sleeping rough in London has fallen by a quarter in the last year, new figures show.

A total of 8,329 people were seen sleeping on the streets of the English capital by frontline outreach workers between April 2021 and March 2022, falling from 11,018 people seen in 2020/21, according to Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) statistics.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan hailed the decline but warned the cost of living crisis risks pushing more people into street homelessness in the coming months.

“These figures show that the hard work we’ve been putting in since I became mayor, alongside London’s fantastic charities and councils, is paying off. But while it is encouraging that fewer people are sleeping rough on London’s streets, there is more work to do to end this crisis,” said Khan.

“Ministers now must step up their support to combat the cost-of-living crisis which threatens to reverse these hard-won gains. I also urge them to fund the services and social security system that people sleeping rough need, reform the private rented sector and invest in new council and genuinely affordable homes to help prevent Londoners becoming homeless in the first place.” 

In total, 5,091 people were seen sleeping rough for the first time in London in the last year, down a third on the previous 12 months.

Three-quarters of the people seen on the streets had a support need while half needed assistance with mental health.

The figures show that City Hall services have helped 12,000 rough sleepers off the streets since Khan became London mayor in 2016. In that time, Khan added: “I’ve been using all tools and resources at my disposal to ensure those without a roof over their heads get the support and services they need. During the pandemic London led the country in bringing people in off the streets. My pioneering ‘In for Good’ principle meant that, following our intervention, more than 80 per cent of those we supported weren’t seen sleeping rough again.”

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Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, the national membership charity for frontline homeless organisations, said: “The continued drop in the number of people rough sleeping in the capital is greatly encouraging. But, over 8,000 people being forced to sleep rough over the year is still far too high.

“With the cost of living crisis starting to take hold and possibly pushing more people into homelessness in the near future, it’s vital that we keep pushing forward in the coming months to continue this progress.”

The London-only Chain figures follow the flow of rough sleeping across the year with multiple agencies tracking the numbers of people living on the streets.

As a result the statistics are widely considered to be more accurate than the official rough sleeping counts published by the government which rely on single-night counts and estimates.

However, Billy Harding, policy and research manager at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, warned that the Chain figures only show the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to youth homelessness.

“There are many more young people who sofa are surfing, staying awake on night buses, and those who are experiencing other examples of hidden homelessness,” said Harding.

“These figures through Chain and the rough sleeping snapshot shine a valuable light on levels of rough sleeping and street homelessness. However this is not enough, and we need to see attempts to measure all kinds of homelessness affecting young people.”

A government spokesperson said the figures “show the progress we are making towards ending rough sleeping in London”.

They added: “Nationally our interventions have prevented almost 450,000 households from becoming homeless since 2017 and we are building on this success with £2 billion over the next three years to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.”

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