The number of people sleeping rough in London has hit a record high, following warnings that the Home Office’s efforts to clear a backlog of refugees is pushing people onto the streets.
A total of 4,068 people were seen sleeping rough in London between July and September, according to the latest figures from Chain.
This is the highest quarterly number of homeless people recorded in the British capital since records began, up 12% on the same period last year and up a quarter from the 3,272 people claimed by frontline workers
statistics in April and June.
Half of those counted were sleeping rough for the first time, with 2,086 new arrivals on London’s streets, 13% more than in July and September 2022. In total, 481 people were counted as living on street long-term – 17% more than the previous term in the spring.
The number of non-British homeless people in London now exceeds the number of homeless people in England. More than 52% of people sleeping rough in London now come from outside the UK.
This is escalating the current homelessness crisis, St Mungo’s chief executive Emma Haddad has warned.
“The pressure of these rising figures is being felt across St Mungo’s, as requests for immigration advice and emergency housing increases,” said Haddad.
“It is fantastic that people are receiving decisions on their asylum claims, but many are facing inadequate time to prepare before they must leave Home Office accommodation. Our outreach teams are meeting more and more refugees on the streets.
“Being granted refugee status in the UK should be an immensely positive time in someone’s life, but finding yourself homeless is anything but a warm welcome to the country. There needs to be a proper transition plan that enables people to access benefits, housing and employment, rather than being forced onto the streets.”
Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor of London, has written to Homelessness Minister Felicity Buchan to ask for help to avoid a spiral into homelessness this winter, following a “very worrying” rise in all districts of the British capital. He also said Home Office policy was leading to “real stories of human suffering”.
“Without a change of approach, our combined spending and effort in this area can at best only alleviate the worst impacts, with no real chance of meeting our shared goal to end rough sleeping,” Copley told Buchan.
A Home Office spokesperson told The Big Issue it has taken “immediate action” to speed up processing times to ease presure on the asylum system.
“To minimise the risk of homelessness, we encourage individuals to make their onward plans as soon as possible after receiving their decision, whether that is leaving the UK following a refusal, or taking steps to integrate in the UK following a grant,” the spokesperson said.
“We offer ample support once claims have been granted through Migrant Help, access to the labour market and advice on applying for universal credit.”
Balbir Kaur Chatrik, director of policy and communications at Centrepoint, said “potentially hundreds” more are experiencing hidden homelessness but could head to the streets in the months ahead.