London's rough sleeping levels up 13%

The number of people seen rough sleeping in London has risen by 13% in the past year, a new report has revealed.

The ‘Street to Home 2012/13’ report shows that 6,437 people were seen sleeping on the streets of the capital between 1 April, 2012 and 31 March, 2013 - compared to 5,678 the previous year.

However, charity Broadway Homelessness and Support's study also shows that a greater proportion of people were only seen sleeping rough once in the year thanks to the efforts of street outreach teams, such as No Second Night Out (NSNO) and others.

Three quarters of new rough sleepers were not seen on the streets again in the last year, compared to 70% in 2011/12 and 62% in 2010/11.

Just over 50% of new rough sleepers attended NSNO and 1,859 (86%) of them did not return to the streets again in the year.

The Street to Home Report's other findings include:

• Outreach teams, NSNO and others helped 2,794 people into accommodation or to return to their home area in 2012/13, an increase from 2,335 in 2011/12. 
• Only 3% of people were seen sleeping rough in all four quarters of the year (197 people).
• 53% of those seen rough sleeping were non-UK nationals - 28% of these were from Central and Eastern Europe (countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007) and 12% were from other European countries. 
• Six people under 18 were contacted by outreach teams. 
• 9% of people seen sleeping rough were over 55 years old.
• 12% of people seen sleeping rough were female (786 people). 
• Among UK nationals, 3% (145 people) were known to have served in the armed forces at some point.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of Broadway, said: “While any increase in the number of rough sleepers in London is concerning, there is much work being done to support those in need. This is reflected in the fact that three quarters of new rough sleepers were only seen sleeping rough once and figures show that a small number of people were contacted in all four quarters of 2012/13.

“However, while we acknowledge and welcome the significant investment made in services for rough sleepers in London, and the positive impact of that investment, we are clear that we need to maintain a similar investment level in preventative services so as to stop people arriving on the streets in the first place. Yet this is the area which has experienced dramatically reduced funding over the past two years.”

London Assembly Green Party member Darren Johnson has complained that the figures show that mayor Boris Johnson has failed on his election promises.

Johnson said: “The mayor has helped more people off the streets, but he has failed to tackle the reasons why they end up there in the first place.

“In these tough times people need secure and affordable housing, especially if their life has taken a turn for the worse. But the mayor has supported cuts to our welfare safety net, overlooked damaging cuts to homelessness services and opposed reforms to our insecure private rented sector. If he doesn’t change course, his aim of ending rough sleeping will remain a distant dream.”