London ‘sees 24% increase in rough sleepers year-on-year’ as living costs surge

The number of rough sleepers in London has risen by 24% year-on-year amid the deepening cost-of-living crisis, a charity has warned.

Analysis by City Hall suggests there were 5,712 people on the capital’s streets between April and September – an increase of more than a fifth from the same period last year.

It is understood these figures are selected statistics from the Greater London Authority-commissioned Combined Homelessness and Information Network ahead of a full data release on Monday.

Homeless people stock
A homeless person in Victoria, central London (Nick Ansell/PA)

Mayor Sadiq Khan is urging the Government to take immediate action to tackle rising bills and housing costs and address the escalating homelessness crisis.

Among the measures he is demanding is an immediate freeze on private rents, lifting the benefits cap, and delivering the promised reforms to housing laws, including ending Section 21 evictions  – so-called “no fault” evictions whereby landlords repossess their properties at short notice and without good reason.

The same research shows a steep 24% rise in homelessness between July and September compared with the same period last year, according to analysis by the charity Crisis.

Crisis said the increase is being driven largely by first-time rough sleepers, who represent more than half of the 3,628 homeless people in the July-September figures – suggesting mounting living costs are pushing people into homelessness.

The mayor said 13,500 people have been helped off the capital’s streets since 2016, with eight in 10 staying housed for good, but progress is being offset by extraordinary financial pressures.

He praised the “unsung heroes” of outreach workers, charity teams, healthcare professionals and council staff, but urged the Government to provide more support for people at risk.

“We continue to see a revolving door of people ending up homeless as a result of this escalating cost-of-living crisis,” he said.

“This cannot be allowed to continue. This new Government must act now to prevent the circumstances that lead to people sleeping rough before thousands more are forced to face a winter on the streets.”

Elizabeth Line
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is urging the Government to take immediate action to tackle rising bills and housing costs (Victoria Jones/PA)

Rebecca Sycamore, interim chief executive of St Mungo’s, said: “As a leading homelessness charity whose teams are trying to get people off the streets every day, St Mungo’s sees the very real and very harsh reality of this financial crisis all of the time.

“And, with more price increases, it is very likely many of those currently just scraping by will no longer be able to manage, and could be at real risk of losing their homes and experiencing a very harsh winter.

“Action is needed now. We want to see the Government uplift benefits in line with inflation, increase the benefit cap and unfreeze Local Housing Allowance rates.

“We urge the Prime Minister and his ministers to act as a matter of urgency to prevent more people ending up homeless this winter.”

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, the national membership charity for frontline homelessness organisations in England, said: “Everyone deserves a safe place to live and the support they need to keep it. But the rising cost of living is exacerbating the long-term drivers of homelessness in London, such as a lack of genuinely affordable housing and a poorly funded welfare system.

“In light of these statistics, the Government must uplift homeless services’ funding in line with inflation to help them respond to the rising demand, as well as tackling the immediate root causes of homelessness such as reforming the private rental sector and uplifting benefits.

“In the long-term we also need to see action on creating many more genuinely affordable homes; otherwise this crisis will continue to spiral.”

Matt Downie, Crisis chief executive, said: “These figures are frightening, and it is disastrous to see the incredible progress made during the pandemic evaporating before our eyes. Every case of rough sleeping is a person going through the trauma, danger and despair of life on the streets, and we see every day the severe consequences it has on the rest of people’s lives.

“Our services across the country are seeing rough sleeping and wider homelessness rising fast. This is made worse by the cost-of-living crisis – but let’s be clear that these dire economic times are only adding fuel to a crisis that has been burning away for years.

“The Government must take decisive action in the autumn statement to invest in housing benefit.”