Housing

Surging number of rough sleepers in London shows ‘full impact of the cost of living crisis’

Frontline charities blamed rising costs as 3,107 people were spotted sleeping rough on London’s streets between January and March – 14 per cent higher than a year ago

rough sleepers in London

The news of rising rough sleeping in London is a significant blow to the government target of ending rough sleeping by the end of 2024. Image: Jon Tyson / Unsplash

Surging numbers of rough sleepers on London’s streets show the “full impact of the cost of living crisis”, charities have warned.

The latest Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) statistics show 3,107 people were spotted while homeless in London between January and March this year. That figure represented a 14 per cent rise on the 2,714 frontline workers counted in the same three months in 2022.

Almost half the people counted as street homeless were sleeping rough for the first time – 1,490 people were new to the streets – 15 per cent higher than the same period last year.

St Mungo’s chief executive Emma Haddad said rising homelessness reflected the impact of the rising costs of food, energy bills and rents and the numbers of people on the street are set to rise further without intervention.

“We are starting to see the full impact of the cost of living crisis, as more and more people become street homeless in London,” said Haddad.

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Rising rents and bills mean people are losing their accommodation, an ever-increasing number of people are presenting with more complex mental health issues, and people who have never been at risk of homelessness before are now sleeping rough.

“The government must increase housing benefit so it properly reflects the true cost of renting, and must introduce the long-promised Renters Reform Bill to prevent more evictions on to the street. Without immediate intervention, the number of people forced to sleep rough will continue to rise.”

The figures also showed a rise in the number of people deemed to be living on the streets long-term as well as people who sleep rough intermittently.

Frontline workers found 1,270 people were sleeping rough some of the time – up 17 per cent in a year.

A total of 376 people were deemed to be living on the streets, up from 363 people between January and March 2022.

Around one in ten of those seen sleeping rough in London are young people under the age of 25. The 257 young people spotted on the street was 11 per cent higher than the same period last year.

Balbir Kaur Chatrik, director of policy and communications at Centrepoint, said: “There continues to be far too many people forced to sleep rough in London and today’s release shows things are heading in the wrong direction.

“Overall, these sort of increases make it look very difficult for the government to reach its target of ending rough sleeping by 2024 and the human cost of that failure is quite profound. Reversing the trend won’t be easy but it is clear what needs to be done.”

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Despite rising inflation, the £640 million per year government spending on tackling rough sleeping and homelessness has not been uprated.

That has left frontline services struggling to deal with rising numbers of people needing support, warned Fiona Colley, director of social change at Homeless Link.

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“Rising costs have not just exacerbated long-term systemic causes of homelessness, such as a shortage of affordable housing and an unfit welfare system, the situation is also threatening homelessness services that are needed now more than ever,” said Colley.

“If the government is to meet its goal of ending rough sleeping in this parliament, it must grant a funding uplift to ensure services do not have to make cut backs or close their doors altogether, leaving people without vital support.”

A Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “Rough sleeping remains well below pre-pandemic levels, but we know there is more to be done to end rough sleeping for good.

“That is why we committed £2 billion to support the three year cross-government strategy to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

“This includes the Rough Sleeping Initiative, which is providing £162m in funding to councils in London. They have a duty to offer tailored support to vulnerable people, including help to access accommodation, support through Housing First and engagement with mental health and employment services.”

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