Boroughs warn the capital’s homelessness crisis is “spiralling out of control” as new data suggests rough sleeping numbers have hit a record high in the capital.
4,068 people were counted sleeping rough in London between July and September 2023, according to the latest CHAIN figures. This represents a 12% increase on the same period in 2022 and is London’s highest quarterly rough sleeping count since records began.
As the winter months approach, boroughs are concerned about unsustainable pressures on local homelessness services. Boroughs are responsible for a range of homelessness and rough sleeping support in their communities. They also work in partnership with charities and City Hall.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning, said:
“This spike in rough sleeping numbers is the latest evidence of London’s worsening homelessness crisis.
“After several years of solid progress in reducing rough sleeping, it is devastating to see rough sleeping skyrocket to a record high. Local support services are under immense pressure and the situation is spiralling out of control.
“Tackling rough sleeping requires a range of policy measures, as well as close partnerships between different agencies and long-term funding commitments for the frontline services keeping people off the streets. The government must work with councils and other key partners to address these matters urgently, otherwise this winter looks set to be extremely bleak.”
A key factor driving the increase in rough sleeping is the recent increase in the number of people leaving Home Office accommodation (such as hotels) after receiving decisions on their asylum applications.
While it is positive that applicants are receiving decisions, boroughs reiterate the need to ensure adequate housing arrangements are in place and that the Home Office works closely with councils to avoid refugees and asylum-seekers becoming homeless. Closer co-ordination between the Home Office and local authorities is essential for securing appropriate housing, preventing homelessness, and ensuring those granted asylum have the best opportunity to settle in the UK.
London Councils is urging the government to extend the 28-day ‘move on’ period, during which newly recognised refugees are expected to move out of Home Office accommodation and into new housing arrangements. Boroughs say a 56-day period and improved financial support would help ensure these individuals have adequate housing and do not resort to sleeping rough.
London faces the most severe homelessness challenges in the country. Homelessness takes many forms, with rough sleeping the most visible. However, an estimated 170,000 homeless Londoners live in temporary accommodation arranged by their local borough. This equates to one in 50 residents of the capital, and includes one in every 23 children.
London Councils is seeking wider policy action to address these homelessness pressures, including an uplift in Local Housing Allowance housing benefit for low-income private renters and a boost to Homelessness Prevention Grant funding for local support services.