Surge in London rough sleepers sees 'humanitarian crisis' on streets

Homeless sleep in Oxford street in London
Rough sleeping in London is on the up -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

New homelessness figures have revealed that rough sleeping in London has increased by more than a third. The 33 per cent surge has been called a 'humanitarian crisis' by a housing provider.

The data, released by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), covers January to March 2024. In total, 4,118 people were recorded as rough sleeping between January and March 2024.

Lee Buss-Blair, director of operations at social housing provider Riverside, said: "To see another large year-on-year increase in the number of people sleeping rough in London should be deeply worrying for us all – even if it is not unexpected. These latest figures prove we are witnessing a growing humanitarian crisis on the streets of London."

READ MORE: 'I was urinated on and saw people be set on fire while homeless on some of London's richest streets’

He added: “It is heartening to hear Sadiq Khan’s commitment to end rough sleeping by 2030 – but it needs to be stressed that this will require more than the £10m of funding pledged so far and also cannot be achieved by the Mayor of London alone. Sadiq is right in his aim to strengthen relationships with boroughs, charities and businesses to help end rough sleeping.

“We need to invest in more rough sleeping outreach teams and more in multi-purpose rough sleeping hubs which bring multiple services together to help people with physical health, mental health, addiction, welfare claims, and housing support all under one roof. We have also found people often face practical barriers when they are seeking to find housing and prevent themselves being homeless."

London councils 'to spend £1bn on temporary accommodation homeless in a year'

He added: "When we look at the big picture it is very important to let national policymakers know that reducing rough sleeping and homelessness in London and across England also requires a large increase in the supply of affordable housing. This is particularly important when London Councils have warned they are on course to spend £1 billion on temporary accommodation for people affected by homelessness in a year.

“In the medium to long-term we need to build 90,000 new social homes a year for people so that there are long-term financially sustainable places for people to live.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and his wife Saadiya arrive with their dog Luna to cast their vote in the London mayoral election
Sadiq Khan promised to end rough sleeping in London by 2030 during the local elections campaign -Credit:Carl Court/Getty Images

Mr Khan said in April that he would aim to end the 'indignity, fear and isolation' felt by those forced to endure a life on the street 'once and for all' if he were re-elected as mayor. His team said that his manifesto pledge would see City Hall’s rough sleeping budget hit record levels.

There would include £10 million provided for a 'new expanded network' of Ending Homelessness Hubs. These would help at least 1,700 rough sleepers off the streets annually by the end of Mr Khan's third term, providing 'specialist assessment and support to help people rebuild their lives'.

It came after Mr Khan said in December that he feared London may see the return of ‘cardboard cities’ as the level of rough sleeping in the capital increases. The mayor added that he fears homeless people would be left to die in the capital amid freezing winter temperatures.

Government working to 'end rough sleeping completely'

The Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Felicity Buchan, said at the time: “We are determined to end rough sleeping for good and are working hand-in-hand with the homelessness sector and other partners to make sure people have a roof over their head but also have the support and encouragement to rebuild their lives.

"We have given councils £2 billion – including £188.2 million for London – to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, and in the capital are supporting 13 projects that provide services and emergency accommodation.

"Through our Rough Sleeping Strategy we will continue to work to not just to reduce rough sleeping but to end it completely.”

The Conservative candidate for mayor, Susan Hall, pledged to 'build family homes that Londoners can afford'. She states in her 'plan' for leadership: "It is far too difficult for younger people to lay down roots in London.

She added: "We need to change the London Plan, to make it easier to build the family homes that Londoners want. They will be homes that people want to live in, which do not disrupt existing communities or the Green Belt."

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