12 September 2020

The statistics, released by the Greater London Assembly, show that 10,726 people were seen sleeping rough in the 12 months to the end of March this year.

That amounts to a 21 per cent rise on the previous year and is nearly 170 per cent higher than the 3,975 figure recorded in the 2010/11 financial year.

An analysis included with today’s statistics suggests that the sharp increase could be partly down to more extensive searching as a result of extra funding for outreach workers under the government's rough sleeping initiative.

The statistics – which includes the discovery of 7,053 sleeping on the capital’s streets for the first time – will nonetheless add to concerns about the scale of the problem in London and the failure of efforts so far to address it.

Today’s report also warns that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to have worsened the situation and points out that the statistics do not include “hidden homeless” people who are “sofa surfing” or living in squats.

Instead, it includes only those who were found at least once during the year sleeping rough on the streets or in “spaces or locations not designed for habitation, such as doorways, stairwells, parks or derelict buildings.”

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said the figures were “deeply alarming” and showed “how dire the underlying situation was even before the coronavirus outbreak.”

He added: “While Government action in the early weeks of the pandemic to get ‘Everyone In’ was a success and undoubtedly saved lives, the winding down of that commitment is seeing a resurgence in the number of people sleeping on our streets. With the eviction ban coming to an end and expectations of mass unemployment, tens of thousands could be pushed into homelessness.

“Government must heed this wake-up call. With coronavirus cases rising, lives are at risk. As the cold winter months approach, we simply can’t see thousands of people sleeping rough, nor can we rely on crowded emergency night shelters where the risk of transmission is incredibly high."

Source: Evening Standard