London

Rough sleeping: London figures hit record high

Rough sleeper Image copyright EPA/NEIL HALL
Image caption Nearly two thirds of London's total between April 2018 and March 2019 were first time rough sleepers

The number of rough sleepers in London has reached a record high after an increase of nearly one fifth in a year, new figures have shown.

Research commissioned by the Greater London Authority found 8,855 people slept rough in the capital between April 2018 and March 2019.

That figure has risen from 7,484 the previous year - and 62% of them were sleeping rough for the first time.

The government said it spent more than £13m to address the issue in London.

A spokeswoman said: "The number of vulnerable people sleeping on our streets has fallen for the first time in eight years, but today's figures show there is further to go in London if we are to end rough sleeping for good."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the rise a "national disgrace".

He said that the city had doubled its rough sleeping budget and outreach team numbers.

'Unforgivable'

The research by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network found that nearly half of London's rough sleepers were from the UK, while Romanians made up the biggest non-UK nationality, making up 16%.

It found men made up 84% of the number, while the majority of rough sleepers were found in the borough of Westminster, which had 2,512, more than a quarter of the entire total.

More than a third (34%) of the new rough sleepers also said they had come from private rented accommodation.

Image copyright Getty Images

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said: "It's simply unforgivable that more and more people are being forced to sleep rough on our streets, facing incredible dangers every day, in large part because they cannot afford to keep their homes.

"Worse still, many of those in these devastating circumstances are living under the constant threat of being moved on, fined, or arrested under the antiquated Vagrancy Act."

The charity is campaigning for the government to scrap the act, which makes rough sleeping and begging illegal in England and Wales.

A government spokeswoman said it had provided more than £13m in funding for the capital through the Rough Sleeping Initiative.

She added: "Councils across London are also doing good work to help those sleeping rough from outside the UK, backed by government investment.

"We will continue to work with the Greater London Authority to speed up the resolution of complex immigration cases, and to provide tailored support to help non-UK nationals access employment and training."

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