Housing

Over 1,500 London renters forced to sleep on streets after being evicted by their landlord

New homelessness statistics also show 17% of those sleeping rough for the first time had been kicked out of asylum accommodation

Homelessness

The government promised to end rough sleeping by 2024. Image: KayVee.INC / Flickr

More than 1,500 private renters evicted by their landlord were forced to sleep on the streets of London last year, official statistics show.

A record high 11,993 people were seen sleeping rough by outreach workers in London during 2023/24 – a 19% increase on the previous year’s and 58% higher than a decade ago. 

Of that number, 7,974 were classed as ‘new’ rough sleepers – a 25% rise on the previous year. And 1,231 people were on the streets having left the private rented sector, with 1,103 saying they had been kicked out their home. A further 410 of the 1,514 people classed as ‘returning’ rough sleepers also said they were back on the streets after being evicted by their landlord.

The figures, published by Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), are thought to be the most accurate portrait of the homelessness crisis on London’s streets. 

And they come in the wake of a broken Conservative manifesto promise to end Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions, a practice which sees thousands of renters evicted every year having done nothing wrong with as little as two months’ notice.

London mayor Sadiq Khan, who has vowed to end rough sleeping by 2030, said: “The rising number of people sleeping on park benches and in shop doorways in every region of the country is a stark symbol of the Conservatives’ failure in government.”

The number of people aged under 25 seen sleeping rough also spiked more than any other age group, up from 856 in 2023 to 1,139 – a 33% rise.

CEO of anti-homelessness charity Crisis Matt Downie said the figures were “deeply shameful” and highlight the “desperate need” for the next government to get a grip on the crisis.

“Right now, we’re in a perfect storm: sky-high rents, a dire shortage of affordable housing and increased living costs are pushing more people onto the streets,” he added. ”But the next government has the power to change things. By rapidly increasing the supply of good quality, genuinely affordable housing, alongside investing in specialist services, we can help people to leave the streets behind.”

Alicia Walker, head of policy at Centrepoint, which tackles youth homelessness, said the impact of the crisis on the younger generation is ”simply appalling”.

“Beneath these numbers are the real stories of young people forced into unsafe situations, facing abuse, violence and sexual assault on the streets of our capital city,” she said. “The next prime minister needs to commit to a fully funded cross-government strategy to end youth homelessness.”

Phil Kerry, CEO of New Horizon Youth Centre in north London, said the charity was seeing “more young people come through our doors than any time in our 57-year history”. More than 40% of young people are rough sleeping when they first contact New Horizon, up by a third in one year.

He added: “There are far too many young people all across London leaving services like ours every day who are given sleeping bags, food packs and waterproof ponchos and must fend for themselves overnight, because there is literally nowhere else for them to go.

“The data should massively alarm every single politician and decision maker in Whitehall and beyond. Curbing the trend of youth homelessness will play a huge part in ending homelessness overall Homelessness has not featured at all during this election but come 5 July that really needs to change. We cannot stand by and watch this happen to our communities.”

Another 951 people seen sleeping rough for the first time had been evicted from asylum accommodation – 17% of the total number of new rough sleepers. The Big Issue revealed last year that efforts to clear the asylum backlog had led to a sharp rise in the number of people presenting to local authorities as homeless after being granted refugee status.

For the first time in CHAIN’s 10-year history, the proportion of people seen rough sleeping who were from countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australasia was higher than the proportion of people from Europe (excluding the UK). Researchers said this was “at least partially driven by the increasing number of people arriving on the streets following departure from asylum support accommodation”.

Emma Haddad, CEO at St Mungo’s homelessness charity, urged the next government to “treat homelessness as an emergency and prioritise it in their first 100 days”.

She added: “This week we sent an open letter to party leaders with over 50,000 signatures calling for a commitment to extend funding that is critical to help rising numbers of rough sleepers. This will be a crucial first step. Homelessness is complex but it can be prevented by targeting the causes, intervening early and investing in the right approaches.”

Most of the people (6,956) were seen sleeping rough only once. The CHAIN report states that homelessness services worked to help 4,379 people (37%) seen rough sleeping into some form of accommodation. This does not necessarily mean the other 63% are still rough sleeping, it said, as many will no longer be in contact with services and may have found their own solutions.

Jon Glackin, founder of grassroots outreach group Streets Kitchen, said: “Sadly, these new figures come as no surprise, as we have growing numbers accessing our services across London every week. As yet, we have seen no political party mention homelessness as an important issue during the election campaign.”

Glackin added that the Everyone In scheme during the pandemic showed how homelessness can be a priority for politicians, and wants to see that same desire from the new government. He said four people had died recently in Keir Starmer’s constituency and that attempts to contact him about homelessness in the area over the past decade had fallen on deaf ears.

The mayor of London said he had quadrupled City Hall’s rough sleeping budget, invested in emergency accommodation, outreach teams and extra cold-weather support, but added: “It’s clear that much more is needed, starting with ending ‘no fault’ evictions and fixing the chaos in the asylum system which is seeing people moved out of Home Office accommodation and onto the streets.”

John Glenton of social housing provider Riverside said the rise was extremely disappointing, but not surprising. He added: “It is also very important to remember that the number of people sleeping rough is sadly just the visible tip of the iceberg when it comes to homelessness.

“Nationally the number of homeless people living in temporary accommodation is more than 60 times higher than the number of people identified as sleeping rough in the annual snapshot.

“London Councils estimated earlier this year that the annual cost of temporary accommodation in London could be more than £1bn.”

Analysis by London Councils estimates more than 175,000 Londoners are homeless and living in temporary accommodation – equivalent to one in 50 people in the capital. This figure includes 85,000 children – suggesting there is at least one homeless child in every London classroom, on average.

Glenton said more funding was needed for council homelessness services and social housing, adding: “Ultimately, we can only prevent people from sleeping rough and reduce the number of adults and children living in temporary accommodation if we build more social housing and reform broken welfare rules.”

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