Rough sleeping in London rises to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels

·2-min read
A homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway in Farringdon, London (PA)
A homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway in Farringdon, London (PA)

Rough sleeping in London has risen year-on-year despite efforts to provide emergency accommodation during the coronavirus lockdowns, a new report suggests.

The number of rough sleepers seen in London rose 3 per cent to 11,018 between April 2020 and March 2021, according to data from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain).

Of these, 7,531 (68 per cent) were seen sleeping rough for the first time – a 7 per cent rise on the previous year.

Some 6,055 rough sleepers (55 per cent) were booked into accommodation in the capital over the same period, including a total of 3,635 (33 per cent) people who were recorded on Chain as having been placed in Covid-19 emergency accommodation by councils or the Greater London Authority.

But the report said the figures did not include a “significant number” of people who had already been booked in prior to the start of the period, or who were not seen rough sleeping during 2020/21 but had been provided with somewhere to stay to prevent them doing so.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It’s dreadful to see an increase in the numbers of people sleeping on our streets.

“There is nothing inevitable about this. Last year, we saw brilliant but short-lived measures that dramatically reduced the numbers of people sleeping rough.

“But the commitments made at the start of the pandemic have fallen away and this progress is now in imminent danger of being lost.

“As the Government looks ahead to restrictions lifting across the country and the return to ‘normal’ life, it is unacceptable that we are seeing a return to pre-pandemic levels of rough sleeping across London.

“We are supposed to be building back better.”

Hotels left empty as a result of coronavirus restrictions were used by homelessness services to safely house those on the streets.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said in April that its Everybody In policy had housed 37,000 rough sleepers in England through the pandemic.

And in January, as the country entered its third lockdown, the Government urged local authorities to “redouble their efforts” to safely accommodate people sleeping rough as part of the Everyone In initiative.

Overall, the number of rough sleepers in London has doubled in a decade from 5,678 in 2011/12.

Westminster recorded the largest number of rough sleepers across the capital’s boroughs, with 2,162.

The borough with the second highest number of rough sleepers was Ealing, with 630 people seen sleeping on the streets in 2020/21.

The figures come amid fears of a spike in homelessness across the UK after the Government’s ban on evictions ending on May 31 in England.

The Government pledged to end rough sleeping in its 2019 manifesto.

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