Boris Johnson hails ‘progress’ on homelessness

Sophia Sleigh, Ross Lydall
Dave Benett

Boris Johnson today praised the Evening Standard’s homelessness appeal as figures suggested a second annual fall in the number of people sleeping rough in England.

The number of rough sleepers ­estimated in London was also said to have decreased for the first time in six years.

The Prime Minister, visiting the Connection hostel at St Martin-in-the-Fields, said: “Today’s figures show we are making some positive progress. But we know we must do more.

“It is simply unacceptable that so many people are still sleeping on the streets, and that’s why we’ve committed to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament.

“I want to once again salute the Evening Standard for their relentless campaigning to bring an end to homelessness in London and for their efforts drawing attention to this vital issue.”

The front page for the launch of our appeal

Government figures estimated there were 1,136 people sleeping rough in the capital on a single night last autumn. This is down by 147 people, or 11 per cent, on the previous year and is the largest official decrease since 2010.

But there was in increase in those found in the West End. The figures are only about a third of the rough sleepers recorded by City Hall last year on the basis of research by homelessness charities.

Westminster had the highest number of rough sleepers in the country — 333, up 27 on the 2018 figure. Hillingdon was second in the country, up 36 to 106. More than half of the people sleeping rough in London are from abroad. About a third are UK citizens.

Rachael Robathan, Tory leader of Westminster council, said: “These figures are a graphic illustration of what anyone visiting central London knows — that rough sleeping is running at unacceptable levels.

“Tonight in Westminster, up to 300 people will be bedding down in doorways and on the streets. We spend more than £7 million a year in helping people find a life away from the streets and offer more than 500 bed spaces a night, but that isn’t halting the rising tide of people bedding down in central London.”

Mr Johnson announced an extra £236 million, on top of £437 million already committed, to help get people off the streets and appointed Tony Blair’s former “homelessness czar” Dame Louise Casey as an independent adviser to lead an urgent review into the causes of rough sleeping.

Critics said today’s figures, a reduction of 411 on last year, were “off target” and meant it would not be possible to end rough sleeping by 2024.

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Comment: Action on homelessness must be stepped up