Rough sleeping rises in London despite commitment to house people during pandemic, figures show

Rough sleeping rises in London despite commitment to house people during pandemic, figures show
Campaigners warn government pledges made at start of public health crisis have ‘fallen away’ with progress ‘in imminent danger of being lost’

Rough sleeping has risen in London over the past year, new figures reveal, despite a government pledge to house everyone during the pandemic.

Data published by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) shows that a total of 11,018 people were seen rough sleeping in the capital during 2020/21, marking a 3 per cent increase on the previous year.

There has also been a 7 per cent rise in people sleeping on the streets for the first time, with the figure now standing at 7,531 – 68 per cent of the overall rough sleeping population recorded – indicating that hardship during the pandemic has forced people out of housing.

Campaigners warn that the increase suggests the commitments made at the start of the pandemic have “fallen away” and that progress to house people are now “in imminent danger of being lost”.

The Everyone In programme, introduced last March, required all councils to place rough sleepers into emergency housing such as hotels, and thousands of people were housed as a result.

In July, ministers said local authorities would be granted funding to “prevent those housed under the scheme from returning to the streets”.

But the new figures indicate that thousands have since returned to the streets, or not been housed at all, with 2,126 people seen rough sleeping this year having also been seen in 2019/20.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “There is nothing inevitable about this. Last year we saw brilliant but short-lived measures that dramatically reduced the numbers of people sleeping rough.”

He said it was “unacceptable” that as coronavirus restrictions eased rough sleeping was still at pre-pandemic levels across London, and called for “long-term solutions” to “end rough sleeping for good”.

Rick Henderson, chief executive at Homeless Link, warned that without “decisive action”, much of the good work of the past 15 months risked “being undone”.

“The Everyone In programme is coming to an end, bringing with it the risk of many people still housed in hotels ending up back on the streets,” he said.

“Add to that the ending of the recent evictions ban, the winding down of the furlough scheme and a huge shortfall in affordable housing and it’s clear that many people will struggle to stay afloat in the coming months.”

The government has been approached for comment.

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