Home Trending Number of people sleeping rough in London up 24% in a year

Number of people sleeping rough in London up 24% in a year

Number of people sleeping rough in London up 24% in a year

The number of people sleeping rough in London has jumped 24% in the past year, according to an official count, meaning more than 3,600 people slept on the capital’s streets between June and September.

More than half were found sleeping rough for the first time by outreach teams – 35% more than the same time last year – as street homelessness in London heads back towards pre-pandemic levels, with mattresses, tents and cardboard shelters again filling doorways and alleys.

Rising private rents, increasing evictions and a reluctance to leave temporary shelters and move into permanent housing because of fears of unaffordable energy bills have been cited as driving factors by homelessness campaigners. St Mungo’s, a homelessness charity operating in London, said it feared “worse is yet to come”.

Rents being asked of new tenants in London have risen 16% on last year, according to data from Rightmove. In addition, the number of landlord evictions in London increased more than four-fold from the second quarter of 2021, when an eviction ban was in place due the pandemic, to the same period this year, official figures show.

A total of 481 people are now deemed to be living on the streets full-time – up from 264 at the start of the pandemic, when hotels were used as hostels, and an increase of 17% on the previous three months. Many more people are deemed to be intermittently rough sleeping.

A graph from 2014-15 to the third quarter of 2022 showing the number of people sleeping rough in Greater London

“We are starting to see the serious effects of the deepening cost of living crisis on the streets and in our services, and as we head into the winter it’s very likely that, without help, many people who are just about scraping by will no longer be able to manage,” said Petra Salva, the director of rough sleeping at St Mungo’s. “We are asking the government to uplift benefits in line with inflation, increase the benefit cap and unfreeze local housing allowance rates [which limit welfare payments for rent].”

“All the indications were that rough sleeping and homelessness have been rising sharply – but the scale of this increase is shocking,” said Billy Harding, policy and research manager at Centrepoint, a charity helping homeless young people in London. “The prospect of further cuts to benefits and public services means we now face the terrifying prospect of record numbers of people sleeping rough during the winter months.”

Half of London’s rough sleepers are UK citizens, while the largest foreign populations are from Romania and Poland. The majority are between 36 and 55 years old; half have mental health problems; and a third need help with drugs and drinking.

Lee Buss-Blair, operations director at Riverside, an accommodation provider for homeless people, said: “we have lost the hard-won progress made during the pandemic”.

He warned that amid plans to cut public spending “a real-term cut to homelessness and rough sleeping support will only put further strain on the public purse and increase rough sleeping further”.

“These figures are frightening, and it is disastrous to see the incredible progress made during the pandemic evaporating before our eyes,” said Matt Downie, the chief executive of Crisis, a national homelessness charity that is seeing rough sleeping and wider homelessness “rising fast” in other parts of the UK.

“This is made worse by the cost of living crisis, but these dire economic times are only adding fuel to a crisis that has been burning away for years. The government must take decisive action in the autumn statement to invest in housing benefit. This will stem the flow of people on to our streets, and help people who are homeless to afford a place to live.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing andCommunities said: “This government is providing £2bn over the next three years to tackle homelessness and end rough sleeping. The latest official rough sleeping statistics show that rough sleeping has fallen to an eight-year low and has almost halved since 2017.

“We are also supporting London boroughs and the GLA [Greater London Authority] with up to £172m from the rough sleeping initiative, which will provide thousands of beds and help individuals find work, manage their finances and access mental and physical health services.”



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