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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Number of rough sleepers in London jumps 12% from last year

The number of people sleeping rough on London's streets has soared by 12 per cent in the last year, according to a new report.

The figures, commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA), show there were 4,068 people sleeping rough in the capital, between July and September this year.

It marks an increase of 12 per cent compared to the same period last year and a significant rise of 24 per cent compared to the previous three months.

Youth homelessness charity Depaul UK has called the situation "unacceptable".

Meanwhile London's Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, Tom Copley, called the increase in homelessness "very worrying".

He has penned a letter to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing and Homelessness, Felicity Buchan, calling for the government to take "urgent" action.

The new figures come as Home Secretary Suella Braverman came under fire at the weekend for describing homelessness as a "lifestyle choice".

Ms Braverman said on Saturday she wants to put a stop to the “nuisance and distress” caused by homeless people pitching tents on public streets.The Cabinet minister said Britain “cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents” occupied by people who she said were mainly from abroad and “living on the streets as a lifestyle choice”.

But Depaul UK's interim CEO Alexia Murphy said "soaring rents and unaffordable bills" together with low wages and increased debt are exacerbating family breakdowns and violence, leaving many young people with "nowhere to go".

Meanwhile Mr Copley said rough sleeping services are now under extra pressure "as a result of a combination of rising cost of living pressures and inadequate Government policy".

In his letter, dated October 30, he called on Ms Buchan to "urgently act ahead of winter to prevent a further increase in people sleeping rough on our streets".

"The data being published by my team this week shows a very worrying increase in rough sleeping across almost all areas of London," he said.

"This includes rises amongst those leaving Home Office accommodation provided for asylum seekers, where we know there is a particular problem with newly granted refugees having insufficient time to find alternative housing.

"Behind this data are, of course, real stories of human suffering and resilience.

"Since 2016, the Mayor has quadrupled City Hall’s rough sleeping budget, successfully helped over 15,500 people off the streets, and invested an additional £20.2m into our flagship ‘Life off the Streets Programme’ to equip people sleeping rough in the capital with the tools they need to start rebuilding their lives."

But Mr Copley said there is "no real chance" of ending rough sleeping without governmental changes.

He called on the government to take action including freezing private sector rents and accelerating rental reforms, increasing local authority funding, and reviewing the asylum process to stop asylum seekers "being pushed into homelessness".

The number of homeless people in London is thought to be significantly higher than the 4,068 recorded rough sleeping between July and September, due to the high proportion of 'hidden homeless' who sofa-surf or living in temporary accommodation.

Cross-party group London Councils estimates nearly 170,000 people in the capital - including more than 83,000 children - are living in hostels, bedsits or other temporary accommodation. This equates to around one in 50 Londoners.

Depaul says there has been a six per cent rise in the number of 18 to 25-year-olds sleeping rough in London in the last year, adding many are being forced to sleep in their cars and at bus shelters as demand for emergency accommodation soars.

“It is unacceptable for anyone to have to sleep rough," said Depaul CEO Ms Murphy.

"It is especially shocking that this winter there are thousands of young people in London and across the UK with no safe place to live or regular bed to sleep in.

"Many have been through family breakdown and violence but don’t know that help is available. Others have nowhere to go because of soaring rents and unaffordable bills. Statistics from Depaul UK’s emergency accommodation service, Nightstop, show a 30 per cent increase in referrals.

"Young people who are homeless are sometimes seen sleeping rough on the streets. For many more, however, homelessness is hidden, and so are the dangers."

Ms Murphy echoed Mr Copley's calls for the government to "do more" to ensure nobody sleeps rough.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesman said: “We want to end rough sleeping and prevent homelessness before it occurs. That’s why we are spending over £2 billion over three years to tackle the complex issues, including over £530 million in London to help prevent evictions and support people off the streets. Our landmark Renters Reform Bill will also give tenants greater security in their homes.

“We are also providing a £200 million fund to deliver an extra 2,400 homes by 2025 to support people who are at risk of sleeping rough.”

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