In recent months, London has experienced a rise in rough sleeping, reaching a record high. The latest data from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) reveals that between July and September 2023, 4,068 people were spotted sleeping rough in the English capital. This represents a 12% increase compared to the same period the previous year and a 25% rise from the counts between April and June 2023.
The 4,068 rough sleepers counted in the second quarter of 2023 are the highest quarterly figure outside of the pandemic since records began. These numbers are not just statistics; they represent thousands of individuals who are facing the realities of homelessness in one of the world’s most prosperous cities.
Half of the individuals included in this count were sleeping rough for the first time. This means that 2,086 people newly found themselves on London’s streets, which is a 13% increase from the same period in 2022. It’s important to note that the majority of these new rough sleepers, 77%, spent just one night sleeping rough. However, 20% slept rough for more than one night without transitioning to long-term street living, and 3% were deemed to be living on the streets. Compared to the previous year, more first-time rough sleepers are spending a single night on the streets, emphasising the need for early interventions to prevent long-term homelessness.
481 individuals were deemed to be living on the streets long-term, which is a 17% increase compared to the previous period in Spring. This figure includes both individuals new to rough sleeping in London and those from the RS205+ cohort. RS205+ refers to people who have been identified as especially hard to help because of their prolific history of rough sleeping. The prolonged exposure to homelessness exacerbates physical and mental health issues, making it even more challenging for these individuals to escape the cycle of rough sleeping.
There are many causes of street homelessness, but some of this new surge in rough sleeping has been attributed to changes in Home Office policy. These changes have led to an unprecedented number of asylum claims being processed in an effort to clear the backlog. This has left many people with inadequate time to prepare before they must leave Home Office accommodation.
The number of non-UK nationals experiencing street homelessness in London has now surpassed the number of rough sleepers originating from the UK. More than 52% of rough sleepers in London are originally from outside the UK. This shift in demographics underscores the complex and global nature of the issue.
These latest statistics strongly suggest that the government will not achieve its goal of ending rough sleeping by the end of next year, as originally pledged in the 2019 Conservative Manifesto. It is essential that we continue to support outreach teams, homelessness organisations, and local authorities working tirelessly to address this issue. Find out more about what you can do here.