“A crisis on our streets”: St Mungo’s responds to 50% rise in new people rough sleeping in London

St Mungo’s has called rising rough sleeping in London a “crisis on our streets” as new statistics from the capital’s CHAIN database reveal a 50% increase in the number of new people rough sleeping compared to the same time last year.

Today’s figures show that 2,069 people were seen newly rough sleeping on London’s streets between July and September 2019. This is over a third more than the previous quarter (April-June 2019) and compares with 1,382 new people seen between July and September 2018.

Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s Chief Executive, said: “There is a rough sleeping crisis on our streets, not just in London, but across the country. This is a national scandal.

“To learn that more than 20 people slept rough for the first time each night in London over the summer brings the scale of the issue into sharp focus. That’s more people alone and on the streets for the first time, exposed to dangers including violence, abuse and serious ill health.

“These new figures show the uphill battle that we and other charities are facing.

“Around half are non-UK nationals and are unlikely to have access to benefits, housing or healthcare so are left desperate and destitute.

“We also know more people are dying whilst homeless and that council funding cuts and welfare reform have reduced the help available for people in this desperate situation.

“I’m proud of the hard work of our dedicated staff. Where we can help, we know 80% of people don’t sleep rough for a second night. But whilst we are successfully supporting more people off the streets, too many people are sleeping rough for the first time.

“This is down to the failure of successive governments to tackle the systemic causes of homelessness.

“Charities can’t tackle this alone and we urgently need the Government to take bold action and a longer term view.

“Put back the £1bn a year that’s been cut from homelessness services over the last decade, increase housing benefit so it covers the cost of rent, fund specialist housing support for non-UK nationals sleeping rough and end this scandal of death and destitution.”

The CHAIN stats also show:

  • 18% of people sleeping rough this quarter are women.
  • 49% have a mental health need.
  • 48% are UK nationals, 52% are non-UK nationals.

Earlier this month the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data revealing that 726 people died whilst sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation last year.

This is a 22% increase on the figure of 597 people who died in 2017 and the highest year to year increase since the ONS time series began. The mean age of death was 45 for men, and 43 for women.

Notes to editors

Total number of people seen rough sleeping

In total during the period July – September 2019 outreach teams recorded 3,985 individuals sleeping rough in the capital. This is a 28% increase on the total figure for July – September 2018.

Of that total:

  • new rough sleepers account for 52% of all rough sleepers
  • intermittent rough sleepers account for just over a third (38%) of all those recorded in the period
  • around a tenth (11%) of those recorded during the period were living on the streets.

The last four quarters have shown a significant increase in the numbers of new rough sleepers recorded, by comparison to equivalent quarters in the previous year. This is partly due to an increase in recording of ‘unidentified’ rough sleepers, particularly correlated with the newly introduced bimonthly street counts which London boroughs have been required to carry out as part of the government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative. Where an individual cannot be identified, usually due to reluctance to engage with recording workers, it is possible that a duplicate client record may be created for them every time they are seen, and hence they are counted multiple times in the new rough sleeper figures.