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Looking back at 2023

Posted03.01.24

Looking back, and looking ahead

A year in which rough sleeping hit record highs, and was even branded a ‘lifestyle choice’ by the Home Secretary, 2023 was challenging period – one in which demand for our services across London increased.

A range of factors lay behind this concerning trend. Increased living costs, rising rents and wider economic uncertainty put many people under greater financial pressure. A clearance of asylum applications by the Home Office led to a spike in newly recognised refugees facing homelessness. More generally, London continued to face a significant shortage of affordable housing options.

Our services not only saw an increase in overall demand, but also an increase in people reporting physical and mental health issues. The number of customers with multiple needs increased; while access to local healthcare and psychological support became more difficult.

However, there were still some causes for optimism. The widespread public criticism of Suella Braverman’s remarks about homelessness arguably show how far public debate on the topic has come. Organisations across the sector and beyond found new and creative ways to address homelessness, from new programmes to creative public awareness campaigns. Also, let’s not forget the hundreds and thousands of amazing people who raised funds for us or donated themselves.

Looking ahead, few of the challenges we saw last year are likely to disappear quickly. There will remain too few affordable properties for everybody who needs them, and living costs remain stubbornly high, putting many households on lower incomes under pressure. The impacts of homelessness on mental and physical health cannot be stopped while people are still forced to sleep rough, and many supported housing organisations will see demand outstrip supply when it comes to bedspaces.

That said, there are again some reasons to be hopeful.

The decision to restore Local Housing Allowance rates to the 30th percentile this April is a positive step; it should allow anyone renting among the cheapest 30% of private properties in their area to cover their rent via housing benefit. It will result in 1.6million households receiving an average of £800 more support next year.

In December, London’s first Rough Sleeping Charter was launched – a public commitment through which Londoners can join forces to end rough sleeping by taking a range of steps. The Charter shows a collective willingness to act on the issue of homelessness, and we are pleased to join hundreds of other organisations as a signatory.

Then, of course, there are our brilliant colleagues, who will continue to work with everybody staying with us to provide what they need to build new lives beyond homelessness. In the last six months of 2023 we delivered 133 health-focused drop-in sessions, 58 workshops (with 426 attendees), and 378 one-to-one interventions. 187 customers have engaged in health-related activities in that period as well.

We will continue delivering such work throughout the coming year. There is no simple solution to homelessness, but by taking many different approaches we can make real change. This is true both for individuals, and for society at large.

Find out more about our work from last year.

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