Number of rough sleepers known to be living on London’s streets ‘up 23% in three months’
The number of rough sleepers known to be living on London’s streets has risen by almost a quarter in three months, figures show.
There were 412 rough sleepers deemed to be permanently on the streets between October to December 2020, according to data published by the Greater London Authority.
While this is 9% lower than the same quarter in 2019, it is a 23% rise from the July to September figures.
These are people who have been spotted by outreach teams at least five times over a period of at least three weeks.
But there were higher numbers of rough sleepers observed who were not seen regularly enough to be deemed as living on the streets.
The data, collated by multi-agency database the Combined Homelessness And Information Network (Chain), shows that 1,360 people were seen rough sleeping in the period.
This is 9% lower than the same quarter in 2019 but up 10% from the July to September count.
Overall, 3,307 people were seen sleeping rough at least once, a 4% fall from the previous quarter, when 3,444 people were identified.
Of these, 1,582 were new rough sleepers – down 17% from the previous quarter. Almost three-quarters (74%) of these people spent just one night sleeping rough.
Of those seen sleeping rough between October to December, 55.9% were white or white British.
People in the black or black British category accounted for 18.9% of the total, and 5.2% were of gypsy, Romany or Irish traveller heritage.
Over the summer, overall numbers of rough sleepers fell 19% compared to April to June.
At the start of the coronavirus crisis, the Government asked local authorities to house all rough sleepers and those in hostels and night shelters within days as part of the “Everyone In” campaign.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the number of people still sleeping rough is a “national disgrace” and must be a wake-up call for the Government.
He said: “City Hall and London boroughs have helped thousands of rough sleepers into emergency hotel accommodation, many of whom have since been supported into longer-term housing.
“However, we cannot ignore the huge number of Londoners who find themselves sleeping on the streets due to the effects of the pandemic.
“Teams across the capital are working tirelessly with homelessness charities to help people into accommodation.
“Ministers must now redouble their efforts to give all those who are sleeping rough a settled home, including those without recourse to public funds whom the Government are making it hardest to help.”
Steve Douglas, chief executive of homelessness charity St Mungo’s, said the hard work and tireless efforts since March have made a “real difference”.
“However, we know homelessness is not a static issue and these statistics show that there is a still a flow of people coming to the streets,” he added.
“And as the economy and employment market falters, the end of the eviction ban approaches, and without a commitment to extend the uplift in Universal Credit there are many more people facing a very real threat of losing their homes who could become part of this picture in the future.”
These “concerning warning signs” could lead to serious problems if not addressed, he added.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “These statistics paint a worrying picture of homelessness across our capital as 2020 came to a close – with over 3,000 people sleeping on our streets and over 400 individuals spending week after week this way.
“Most concerningly, this was against the backdrop of rapidly rising coronavirus cases and temperatures dropping. In such circumstances, being forced to sleep on the streets is not just dangerous, it’s life threatening.”
He said that, despite councils being urged to redouble their efforts to get everyone in during the current lockdown, backed by £10 million funding, people are falling through the cracks or being denied help – often due to their immigration status.
He added: “We urge Government to be crystal clear that ‘everyone in’ must mean everyone, so that no one sleeping rough is denied vital support when the risk to life remains high.”
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