7,500 people slept rough on London’s streets in 2015, according to figures seen by the Guardian.
The paper also claims this represents a doubling in the number of people sleeping rough over the last five years — 3,673 slept rough in the financial year 2009-10 — but Londonist readers will remember there was a change between 2011 and 2012 in how efficiently homelessness organisations logged people they were seeing on the streets. (More information here: TLDR takeaway is that a jump in people recorded sleeping rough around this date didn’t necessarily mean more people, perhaps it was that they were being recorded for the first time.)
It’s more accurate to compare recent years: between 2012 and 2014, the numbers of London rough sleepers were relatively stable at around 6,500. In 2014-15, that figure rose to 7,581. If 7,500 people slept rough in the calendar year 2015, it suggests that the issue hasn’t been dealt with and we can expect 2015-16’s figures to still be high.
Homelessness charity St Mungo’s Broadway, which compiles the figures, points the finger of blame at the housing crisis: lack of genuinely affordable housing, cuts to council funding and housing benefits. There’s also a problem with people from central and eastern Europe finding themselves on the streets after work dries up or they’re ditched by unscrupulous employers.
St Mungo’s chief executive Howard Sinclair said
Worryingly… the number of people who’ve previously slept rough and are returning to the streets is rising. We need to ask what more can be done for these people, what gaps need to be filled to prevent repeat homelessness.
The Mayor’s charity No Second Night Out works to quickly identify new rough sleepers and get them into help as soon as possible, but the longer someone stays on the street — or can’t access the help to keep them housed long-term — the more entrenched they become. Howard Sinclair is right to call the trend for people returning to sleeping rough “worrying”.