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Charities have warned of a “dramatic” and “appalling” increase in the number of people found sleeping rough on London’s streets, while calling on the UK Government to invest in homelessness services and ensure the welfare system is “strong enough” to support people in need.

Data released today (31 October 2018) from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) database shows that the number of people sleeping rough in London has increased by a shocking 17% over the last year.

The data reveals that between 1 July and 30 September 2018, 3,103 people were recorded as sleeping rough on the streets of London. This represents a 17% increase on the same period in 2017 and 20% more than the previous year.

A worrying 45% were people who hadn’t been recorded as sleeping rough in the Capital before – ‘new rough sleepers’ – while 45% had been seen sleeping rough in London before the period began but not regularly enough to be regarded as ‘living on the streets’.

The remaining 10% were ‘living on the streets’ and had received regular contact from charity workers and others. There has been a 10% reduction in these numbers compared to the same period last year.

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Homeless Link’s Chief Executive, Rick Henderson, said: “It is alarming to see such a dramatic rise in the number of people sleeping rough in London compared to the same period last year, especially the number of people there for the first time.

“We need to ask ourselves some tough questions about why so many are finding themselves with little choice but to bed down on the streets and concerted effort is required to ensure we have an effective safety net to prevent this.

“Sleeping rough is extremely dangerous and can seriously damage people’s health. As temperatures begin to drop, we strongly urge London’s local authorities to ensure they can provide sufficient emergency shelters over the winter, so nobody is left out in the cold.

“Rough sleeping is not just about losing a roof over your head. It is clear that with so many new people finding themselves on the streets there are structural causes of homelessness that need to be urgently addressed. These include action on reducing poverty, the chronic shortage of low-cost housing and ensuring everyone is supported by the welfare system.

“This is why we welcomed the Government’s recent rough sleeping strategy and the Homelessness Reduction Act. Now we must see them both implemented swiftly and effectively so we can reverse these figures by preventing rough sleeping along with increased investment in support services and low-cost permanent housing so we can end homelessness for good.”

Homelessness is on the rise across the UK.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said the “appalling” figures is further evidence that more needs to be done to support homelessness people and those at risk of homelessness.

“Across the capital, local authorities are struggling with increasing numbers of people new to the streets, which is why the root causes of the problem must be tackled,” he said.

“We can’t carry on like this when we know that homelessness is not inevitable. We don’t have enough affordable housing that homeless people can access; we don’t have a strong enough welfare system to support people when they fall on hard times; and we aren’t giving people in the most vulnerable situations a place to call home when they have nowhere to turn.

“Rough sleeping ruins lives and, with winter approaching, the consequences of ending up on the streets become more and more devastating. Last year alone, 449 homeless people died in the UK, many of whom were living on the streets.

“The government has already made important commitments to end rough sleeping but it must address the root causes of it to make those commitments a reality.”