Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s says the latest rough sleeping figures for London show the collaborative approach taken to tackling street homelessness during the pandemic is still having a positive effect.
The latest figures – released today (31 January) – by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) show that the number of people defined as sleeping rough is around a quarter less than in the summer of 2019 before the pandemic struck.
The data, which covers October to December last year show there were 2,949 people sleeping rough in London, with 1,314 (45%) of them doing so for the first time.
Both these figures are up slightly on the previous month, but are a significantly less than the spike seen in the summer of 2019 when the total number of people sleeping rough was almost 4,000 with the number of people newly sleeping rough reaching more than 2,000.
Notably, the figures for Westminster, which traditionally has the highest number of people sleeping rough in London, show a significant drop in the number of people recorded during October to December 2021.
There were 588 people sleeping rough during the three month period, a fall of 99 from the previous three months, and a fall of 104 on the same period the previous year.
St Mungo’s Director of Rough Sleeping, Westminster and Migrant Services Petra Salva OBE said: “Our teams in London, along with the Greater London Authority and London Councils have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure that people who were on the streets were located and offered somewhere safe to stay so they could protect themselves from the virus, and start their recovery from homelessness.
“This is particularly evident in the statistics for Westminster, where our expert teams work with the council to support people who are sleeping on the streets, and this partnership has resulted in a large reduction in the number of people experiencing street homelessness.
“The positive effect of collaboration, seen during the early months of the pandemic and the ‘Everyone In’ initiative and which has been captured by the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, must continue to become the norm for everyone whose work supports people sleeping rough.
“The additional Protect and Vaccinate Scheme funding which has been made available by the Government for the winter months will hopefully keep the number of people on our streets down but we need to ensure that the support continues when that support ends.
“The prevention measures, which stop people ending up on the streets are having an effect as the flow of people newly sleeping rough remains steady.
“But, we are facing difficult times ahead with the rising cost of living and the increase in national insurance which may end up being the straw which breaks the camel’s back for many people who are struggling to make ends meet.
“We cannot take our collective foot off the pedal and must work together to ensure support is provided at the right time to stop these figures rising and more people ending up on the streets.”
The latest figures also show:
- Three quarters of people sleeping rough for the first time (984) only spent one on the streets
- The number of people defined as ‘living on the street’ was 491 – which was up 16% on the previous three months, and
- Of those, 40 people had transitioned from newly sleeping rough to living on the streets – and increase of 60% on the previous three months but a reduction of 15% when compared to the same period last year.
CHAIN is commissioned and funded by the Mayor of London and managed by St Mungo’s.