6 June 2024

An increasing number of people are sleeping rough on the streets of London with campaigners calling on the British government to tackle the “root causes” of the problem.

UK mortgage rates and rents have been soaring since decades-high inflation fuelled the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.

Figures released this week by the London Assembly recorded 3,272 people sleeping rough in London between April and June 2023. This marks a nine percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Just under half (49 percent) of the people sleeping rough in London in April-June 2023 were on the streets for the first time, according to the report.

The UK government has set a target of ending rough sleeping in England by 2024. But Rick Henderson, chief executive at Homeless Link, said this target is “now looking completely out of reach”.

Umbrellas rest on the cardboard boxes of a rough sleeper’s makeshift camp outside a closed shop on Oxford Street, at daybreak in London on August 2,//AFP

He told AFP of a “huge lack of genuinely affordable housing, soaring rents and holessness services struggling to make ends meet”.

“The government must prioritise prevention, including raising the local housing allowance to include at least the lower third of rents, and finally enacting the Renters Reform Bill so renters have more security,” Henderson said.

“We need the government to target the root causes rather than just simply alleviating the symptoms,” said Francesca Albanese, director of policy and social change at Crisis, a homelessness charity.

“No one should have to endure life on the streets, but as living costs continue to rise across the country, more people could be forced into homelessness over the coming months unless we see action taken,” she said in a statement to AFP.

Rough sleepers lay in a makeshift beds outside a closed shop on Oxford Street, in the early hours of the morning in London on August 2, 2023. A report released by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) on July 31, 2023, found that the number of new people sleeping rough in London in spring and early summer had risen by 12% on the same period last year. The report found that 3,272 people were recorded as sleeping rough in the capital, up 9% on the total figure for April-June 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

In 2022, the number of people sleeping rough in England increased for the first time since 2017, according to government statistics.

By Agence France Presse