The number of homeless people sleeping rough in London has rocketed by 64% since 2010, according to a damning new report.
The report by the London Assembly Housing Committee (LAHC), ‘No Going Back‘, (pdf) reveals that around 6,500 people were seen sleeping rough in London during 2013/14 – an increase of 64% since the tory-led coalition government took office in 2010.
Around a third of all rough sleepers in London had been seen in previous years. This is despite an initiative launched by Mayor Boris Johnson in 2010, which vowed that homeless people would experience ‘No Second Night Out’, sleeping rough on London’s streets.
The aim of the project is to catch rough sleepers on the very first night they are seen and provide immediate advice and support. However, figures show that the initiative has only helped around 40%. ‘No Second Night Out’ was launched at the same time as Mayor Boris Johnson made an ambitious commitment to end rough sleeping in the capital.
Today’s figures will no doubt come as a huge blow to Boris, who was once tipped as a possible future replacement for David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party. What may hurt Boris even more however, is the apparent connection between the shocking rise in rough sleeping and a 25% fall in the number of beds in emergency night shelters.
Furthermore, figures also suggest that the number of homeless projects (shelters) refusing access to rough sleepers whose needs were regarded as ‘too complex’ is also on the rise, from 63% in 2013 to 74% in 2014.
Nine in ten rough sleepers in the UK are men and the majority are between the ages of 25 to 45. 46% are British nationals, while 41% come from Eastern, Central and Western European nations. Half of those had been living in the UK for at least a year before sleeping rough. Only one in ten had been in the UK for less than a week.
Among many recommendations included in the report is the suggestion that Mayor Boris Johnson should ‘lobby the Department for Work and Pensions’ to ensure that jobseekers ‘without stable accommodation are best supported to acquire and sustain accommodation and employment’.
Other recommendations include:
- The Mayor should begin discussions with the Government and London Councils to establish pan-London and sub-regional commissioning arrangements for services supporting single homeless people.
- The London Health Commission should assess how health services can be made to join up with, and complement, other services which support rough sleepers.
- The Mayor should write to the Ministerial Working Group on Rough Sleeping to highlight the need for greater flexibility in the design of JobCentre Plus and NHS systems.
- The Mayor should press hard for at least a proportionate share of Department of Health hostel funding for London and request Department for Communities and Local Government to clarify what revenue funding will be available to support homelessness projects in London for 2015-16 and beyond.
Darren Johnson AM, Chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee said,
“With increasing pressure on the system, it’s time for the Mayor to take a strategic approach to single homelessness in London. He must support cross-borough collaboration and ensure the right services are available where vulnerable Londoners need them.
“We’ve seen how some tailored services have made a real impact on the lives of rough sleepers, but there is a big variation in provision across boroughs, and coordination with other services like the NHS is often poor.
“The Mayor’s No Second Night Out initiative offers the right approach for tackling the problem, but the evidence is clear that this project alone is not going to end rough sleeping in London.
“Providing tailored cross-borough services and enough beds will help London’s most vulnerable people make the transition to a settled way of life and curb the rise in repeat rough sleepers in the capital.”
Jacqui McCluskey, Director of Policy and Communications for Homeless Link, said:
“London has made real progress when it comes to helping new rough sleepers off the streets but more needs to be done to prevent the issue in the first place.
“All too often people just don’t get the advice or offer of accommodation that could make that critical difference.
“Councils in the capital are under severe pressure but we would welcome any steps that make getting help easier. Preventing rough sleeping is not only good for individuals but saves tax payers money.”