AS the number of people sleeping rough in London rises sharply again, the Salvation Army is urging all political parties to make ending rough sleeping a prime concern for the next parliamentary term.

New London Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) figures, which are the most detailed data on rough sleeping in England, highlight a 23 per cent increase compared to the same period the previous year.

From October to December 2023:

  • In total, outreach teams recorded 4,389 individuals sleeping rough in the capital.
  • New rough sleepers account for 52 per cent of all rough sleepers.
  • Intermittent rough sleepers account for 37 per cent of all those recorded in the period, and 13 per cent of those recorded during the period were living on the streets.
  • 2,283 people in London were recorded sleeping rough for the first time and 560 people were recorded who were deemed to be living on the streets.

To end rough sleeping in England, The Salvation Army is calling for a change in the law, so people forced onto the streets are deemed in priority need by local authorities and offered temporary and then longer-term accommodation. The church and charity also want the Government to urgently increase homelessness funding in line with inflation.

Director of The Salvation Army Homeless Services, Nick Redmore, 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.

“Not only should funding match inflation but it needs to recognise that with rates of rough sleeping and homelessness rising, the need is growing, and services are already stretched to maximum.

“We see the reality of rough sleeping every day. As winter continues to bite, The Salvation Army has been providing emergency temporary accommodation to keep people safe and warm as well as drop-in support and hot meals. Unless urgent action is taken, we fear the number of people sleeping rough on the streets will continue to rise.”

The Salvation Army is calling for:

  • In the short term, a change to homelessness legislation in England so that rough sleepers are added to the priority need list for emergency and then longer-term housing but, in the long term, for the priority need list to be abolished so everyone who is homeless can be helped.
  • A commitment to a sustained investment and increase in housing stock and especially social housing, in the UK to meet the needs of the growing numbers of people experiencing homelessness.
  • An introduction of the same recording system of the rough sleeping population as in London (CHAIN statistics) to other cities and regions in the UK with high levels of homelessness, providing detailed information on the number of homeless people across the whole country in need of support.
  • Make sure mental health and addiction support is part of local authority homelessness strategies in England and that targets are set on the number of homeless people who are provided with mental health and addiction support alongside existing targets for accommodation.

* Source: The Salvation Army