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Rough sleeping in London hits a ten year high – Crisis response

New figures released today (31 January) by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) reveal that the numbers of people sleeping rough on London’s streets are at their highest level in ten years.

Between October and December 2023, 2,283 people were newly sleeping rough across the capital – a 34% increase from the same quarter last year. This is another record high, second only to April-June 2020.

In total, 4,389 people were seen sleeping on the capital’s streets - a 23% increase from the same period in 2022.

The figures throw into sharp focus how the increasing cost of living, sky rocketing rents and low wages are pushing thousands into homelessness and the dangers of sleeping rough.

The figures come as Crisis urges the Westminster Government to remove cruel new measures to criminalise people forced to sleep rough in the Criminal Justice Bill. The Bill proposes new powers for police and local authorities to enforce against so-called ‘nuisance rough sleeping’. These powers include being moved on, imprisonment and a fine up of up £2,500. These plans draw on much of the measures in the archaic Vagrancy Act, which the Government committed to repeal in February 2022.

Matt Downie, Chief Executive at Crisis, said: “These figures are a damning indictment of the current approach to tackling rough sleeping and show we urgently need a change in strategy. Currently, instead of tackling our broken housing system, which would bring these shameful numbers down, the Westminster Government is focusing its energy on introducing new powers to criminalise people for sleeping on the streets.  

“Life on the streets means being exposed to unimaginable cruelty. Our research shows that nine in ten people experience violence or abuse, with many having had bricks or bottles thrown at them, while others had been urinated on. The proposals in the Criminal Justice Bill will do nothing to ensure that people rough sleeping do not have to face this inhumanity, nor will it support them away from the streets for good.  

“The Government must not consign thousands more to a life on the streets. It’s crucial that we invest in the solutions we know work, such as building more social housing and funding support services like Housing First. The Criminal Justice Bill must also be amended to remove the parts that criminalise homelessness. No one should be punished for not having a home.”