Housing

The number of people living on London's streets has risen by 20% in a year

The figures released by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) highlight the scale of the issue in England's capital.

The number of people deemed to be "living on the streets" in London has risen by almost 20%. Image: Peter Laskowski from Pexels

The number of people living long-term on London’s streets has increased by 19 per cent in a year, new statistics show.

The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) figures show 491 people were deemed to be living on the capital’s streets between October and November last year. A person is deemed to be living on the streets if they have had a “high number of contacts over three weeks or more which suggests they are living on the streets”. 

During this period, outreach teams also recorded 2,949 people sleeping rough in the capital for at least one night. 

Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis described the figures as being “unacceptable and entirely preventable”.’

“What’s most concerning is the rise in people who are living on the streets – meaning they are bedding down on the streets night after night. Sadly, we know all too well that people who are living on the streets often face multiple challenges to ending their homelessness, including health needs such as mental health,” he said.

The Chain statistics revealed that homelessness disproportionately affected men, with more than half of rough sleepers in London suffering from mental health problems.

“We welcome this data that indicates a general decrease of people sleeping rough in London, but we’re very concerned about the increase of 19% of people living in the streets since the same period last year. We collectively need to find a way to reach out to and find solutions for everybody, even individuals who are harder to reach. No one should have to live in the streets of London” said Neil Parkinson, co-head of casework at Glass Door.

Despite the reported increase in those living long-term on the streets, the statistics showed the total number of people seen sleeping rough was down by 11 per cent. 

Of the 1,314 people recorded by the outreach team as sleeping rough for the first time, 75 per cent spent just one night sleeping rough. Some 22 per cent slept rough for more than one night, but did not go on to live on the streets.

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A spokesperson for mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the reduction in people sleeping rough was encouraging, and highlighted more than 8,000 people had been placed in accommodation during the pandemic.

But they added:  “Now, ministers must take note of the benefits of taking a joined-up approach and provide further investment in supported housing and bespoke interventions. The government must do more to support people who have spent long periods on the streets, whose numbers have risen during the pandemic – to ensure that those with highest support needs are able to access the accommodation and wraparound support needed to allow them to rebuild their lives.”

Balbir Chatrik, director of policy and communications at Centre Point, a leading charity for young people, said: “Regardless of any improving trends there are still far too many people left with no option but to sleep on the streets. We really need to see leadership from central government here: it’s clear that local authorities and charities need more money and better-structured resources to tackle rough sleeping and Whitehall’s piecemeal approach to homelessness funding fails to provide that.”

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