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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sadiq Khan expands rough sleeping services as new figures show another rise in the number of homeless people

Sadiq Khan has expanded rough sleeping services in London, as new figures show another rise in the number of homeless people on the capital’s streets.

The mayor has announced that a new ‘No Second Night Out Hub’ will open in west London in April.

The hub, which will be London’s fourth, will provide assessment spaces and beds to help people off the streets and into longer-term accommodation. It is part of a £17m, three-year investment into the mayor’s No Second Night Out services, which will be run by the charity St Mungo’s, helping around 2,000 people a year.

The announcement comes as City Hall data shows an eight per cent rise in rough sleepers recorded in London in October to December 2023, compared with the previous quarter. The increase compared with October-December 2022 was 23 per cent.

A total of 4,389 people were recorded by outreach teams as homeless on the streets, of whom 2,283 were new rough sleepers.

The mayor activates his Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) whenever temperatures fall below 0°C, ensuring additional emergency accommodation is available for people sleeping rough.

During 13 days of sub-zero temperatures earlier this month, 1,282 people were helped, compared with 949 during 14 days of SWEP in January 2023 – a rise of 35 per cent.

Mr Khan said: “These new figures are very worrying, and should be a wake-up call for the Government. Despite the huge amount of work being done in London, we can’t do this alone and the truth is ministers are turning a blind eye to the scale of this national crisis.

“In December I asked the Government to play its part and deliver an emergency winter package of support, including pausing Home Office evictions to help prevent those most at risk sleeping in the cold this winter – something they have failed to do.”

The Home Office in December reversed a policy which had meant newly-granted refugees were being given as little as seven days to find somewhere to live. The Government has now returned this time period to its original 28 days, but Mr Khan believes this is still not enough time.

Of those helped by SWEP this month, 19 per cent, 242 people, reported that they were newly granted refugees who had just left Home Office-provided accommodation.

The mayor added: “The Government’s continued hostile approach to refugees has meant that hundreds of people are becoming homeless or sleeping rough on our streets.

“As mayor, I’m determined to do everything I can to work with boroughs and the voluntary sector to tackle rough sleeping in the capital and I urge Government ministers to back our efforts to end this shameful situation for good.”

Homelessness minister Felicity Buchan MP said in December: “We are determined to end rough sleeping for good and are working hand-in-hand with the homelessness sector and other partners to make sure people have a roof over their head but also have the support and encouragement to rebuild their lives.

“We have given councils £2 billion – including £188.2 million for London – to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, and in the capital are supporting 13 projects that provide services and emergency accommodation. Through our Rough Sleeping Strategy we will continue to work to not just to reduce rough sleeping but to end it completely.”

Some 43.5 per cent of those recorded rough sleeping in October-December 2023 were UK nationals. The second-highest nationality were Romanians (10.1 per cent), followed by Eritreans (7.0 per cent).

Emma Haddad, chief executive of St Mungo’s, said: “Our outreach teams across London have been inundated with new people arriving onto the streets. The shortage of affordable and appropriate housing is leaving far too many people vulnerable. We urge the Government to take measures that would halt the escalating numbers of people who are sleeping rough and having to spend their nights in the cold.”

The Home Office paused refugee evictions from hotels between December 23 and January 2, but Ms Haddad said another pause was required “with the bitter weather looming again for February”.

Nick Redmore, director of the Salvation Army’s homeless services, said: “It is now 2024 and these figures are a stark reminder that the ambition of ending rough sleeping set in 2019 has not become reality. It now seems certain that the Government will miss its target.

“Ending rough sleeping must be a prime concern for all political parties in the upcoming General Election. It is incumbent upon all parties to work with the homelessness sector and come up with a credible plan to eradicate rough sleeping and put this on a long-term sustainable footing.”

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