Leading homeless charity Crisis has called on the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to act on rising levels of homelessness, warning that the level of rough sleeping in the capital is “reaching crisis proportions”.
New figures reveal that 8,096 people slept rough in London over the course of 2015/16, up 7% on the previous year and more than double the reported figure of 3,975 in 2010/11.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “These latest figures lay down a gauntlet that Sadiq Khan simply cannot ignore – he must show the ambition and leadership necessary to tackle a situation that is now reaching crisis proportions.
“It is encouraging that Mr Khan has shown support for a change to the law to improve the help available to homeless people from their councils while Mr Khan’s commitment to build affordable housing is also welcome.
“What the capital needs now is a wide-ranging, ambitious plan with sustained investment to tackle rough sleeping and to prevent homelessness.
“For a city as prosperous as London to be facing this sort of crisis is indefensible, but it is within Mr Khan’s power to end it.
“We are here to help him to achieve this and look forward to working with him in the coming months.”
The call comes as Conservative MP and member of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Bob Blackman, has announced his intention to use his Private Members’ Bill to bring about a new law aimed at preventing homelessness in England.
The Homelessness Reduction Bill is supported by Crisis, who have called on MPs from across the political spectrum to add their own support to the Bill.
The Bill, if passed, will introduce requirements on local authorities to prevent people from becoming homeless, and draws on recommendations from an expert panel of council representatives, lawyers and housing experts.
Bob Blackman MP said: “I am delighted to announce that my Private Members’ Bill will focus on preventing and tackling homelessness in England.
“During the CLG Committee’s recent inquiry into homelessness, I heard disturbing first-hand accounts from people who’d been forced to sleep on the streets because they couldn’t get the help they needed. We cannot stand by and allow this to continue.
“That’s why I’m calling on my fellow MPs to help put an end to this injustice once and for all by supporting my Bill.
“It’s not a cure-all, but it will be a major step forward in tackling homelessness. I served in local government for 24 years before becoming an MP and I have seen at first hand the importance of taking action to combat homelessness.”
Crisis Chief Executive Jon Sparkes said: “This bill could transform how we tackle homelessness in England. It offers an historic opportunity, and if passed, would represent one of the most important developments for homelessness in nearly 40 years.
“Homelessness isn’t inevitable, yet the law as it stands in England means that single homeless people who go to their councils for help can be turned away with no option but to sleep on the streets. This is unacceptable.
“Prevention is better than cure, and for homeless people this is especially so. It’s already been shown to work in Wales, where it has dramatically reduced the need for people to be re-housed.
“There is a wealth of evidence, opinion and support for a change in the law on homelessness in England, and we urge MPs from all parties to get behind this historic bill.
“For all these reasons we will stand beside Mr Blackman as he pushes this bill through Parliament.”