Mayor of London Sadiq Khan warns of rough sleeping ‘crisis’ as cost of living crisis gets worse
Image by Greater London Authority
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan is urging the government to take immediate action to tackle the cost of living as rising bills and housing costs force growing numbers of people to sleep rough on London’s streets. Alarming new statistics released by City Hall from the GLA-commissioned Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) show that despite record numbers being removed from sleeping rough in London between April 2022 and the end of September 2022, 5,712 people were seen sleeping rough in the capital, an increase of 21 per cent on the same period last year.
Reports from those within the sector suggest this rise is in part due to cost of living pressures. The rate of consumer price inflation (CPI) rose rapidly in the first half of 2022 to 10 per cent in July. The cost of renting has also risen dramatically – analysis from Hometrack suggests that annual London rental inflation had risen to almost 18 per cent by July. Households are also likely to face further financial challenges in the coming months from higher energy bills and borrowing costs.
Khan on 30 October sounded the alarm on this growing homelessness crisis which risks reversing the progress made since 2016 and particularly during the pandemic when more than 10,000 people were helped off the streets and into hotels by City Hall and London boroughs.
The Mayor is calling on Government to:
- Immediately freeze private sector rents
- Reinstate the social security safety net which prevents people from becoming homeless. This must include lifting the benefit cap, unfreezing Local Housing Allowance rates and suspending the habitual residence test, which can restrict access to benefits for European Economic Area (EEA) nationals with rights to live in the UK.
- Give local authorities the funding needed to meet their duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act and properly providing local support services which are vital to preventing and ending homelessness, such as drug and alcohol treatment.
- Deliver the promised reforms to the Private Rented Sector, including ending Section 21 evictions.
- Take measures to stop refugees and asylum seekers being pushed into homelessness. This includes extending the move-on period for newly recognised refugees from 28 days to 56 days, in line with local authorities’ duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act.
- Suspend the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition, which puts many people with NRPF status at serious risk of destitution and homelessness.
Throughout his mayoralty, Khan has made addressing London’s homelessness crisis a personal priority. Pioneering services set up by the Mayor include his Rapid Response outreach team and his pan-London trigger for emergency accommodation when temperatures fall below freezing, as well as City Hall’s country-leading response to accommodating rough sleepers in the face of COVID-19.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said, “Since I was elected Mayor, around 13,500 people have been helped off our capital’s streets with eight in ten staying off the streets for good. Our outreach workers, charity teams, healthcare professionals and council staff are not only vital partners in this work but unsung heroes and deserve our heartfelt gratitude.
“Despite this progress, extraordinary financial pressures are putting the poorest Londoners at growing risk of homelessness with the number of people sleeping rough already up by a fifth year on year. We continue to see a revolving door of people ending up homeless as a result of this escalating cost of living crisis.
“This cannot be allowed to continue, this new Government must act now to prevent the circumstances that lead to people sleeping rough before thousands more are forced to face a winter on the streets.”
Khan is doing all he can to offer support to Londoners and is spending more than £80m this year to help those struggling with the rising cost of living. That includes more than £50m to tackle fuel poverty through the Mayor’s Warmer Homes programme and energy advice services, more than £20m to improve security for private renters and house Londoners who are rough sleeping or homeless, more than £5m to connect Londoners with welfare advice, and £400,000 to tackle food insecurity.
St Mungo’s Interim Chief Executive Rebecca Sycamore, said, “As a leading homelessness charity whose teams are trying to get people off the streets every day, St Mungo’s sees the very real and very harsh reality of this financial crisis all of the time. And with more price increases it is very likely many of those currently just scraping by will no longer be able to manage, and could be at real risk of losing their homes and experiencing a very harsh winter.
“Action is needed now. We want to see the government uplift benefits in line with inflation, increase the benefit cap and unfreeze Local Housing Allowance rates. We urge the Prime Minister and his ministers to act as a matter of urgency to prevent more people ending up homeless this winter.”
Rick Henderson, CEO at Homeless Link, the national membership charity for frontline homelessness organisations in England, said, “Everyone deserves a safe place to live and the support they need to keep it. But the rising cost-of-living is exacerbating the long-term drivers of homelessness in London, such as a lack of genuinely affordable housing and a poorly funded welfare system.
“In light of these statistics, the Government must uplift homeless services’ funding in line with inflation to help them respond to the rising demand, as well as tackling the immediate root causes of homelessness such as reforming the private rental sector and uplifting benefits. In the long-term we also need to see action on creating many more genuinely affordable homes, otherwise this crisis will continue to spiral.”