Government figures published on 25 January reveal a 51% increase in the number of people sleeping rough in England over the last two years.
London rough sleeper numbers high but stable, reveals CHAIN data
Historically there has been an upward trend in rough sleeping in London, with a doubling of the figures recorded through CHAIN since 2010-11. However, this year data shows that between April 2016 and March 2017 8,108 people were seen sleeping rough, a figure almost unchanged from the 8,090 people seen sleeping rough in 2015/16.
This is encouraging, however more must be done to reduce the number of people sleeping rough on our streets. In particular, the number of longer-term rough sleepers increased by 8% year on year. We know that people sleeping rough long-term are more likely to experience mental and physical health problems and other negative consequences as a result. It is vital that services are able to support long-term rough sleepers to move on from homelessness and Homeless Link will continue to work with the sector to find new ways achieve this, for example through our Housing First England project.
A higher number of UK nationals sleeping rough on our streets
The data this year shows minimal change in the demographics of people seen sleeping rough. 15% of people seen sleeping rough in 2016/17 were women and 85% men, a figure unchanged from 2015/16. The age of those rough sleeping also remained largely consistent with the previous year. The proportion of those seen who were over 55 remained unchanged at 11% and a total of four people under 18 were seen in both 2016/17 and 2015/16. Of people seen in 2016/17, 9% were aged 25 or under, compared with 10% in 2015/16, and 36% of rough sleepers in the last year were aged 35 or under compared with 38% of people in 2016/17.
Greater change was evident in the nationality of those seen sleeping rough in 2016/17. The data shows an increased number of UK nationals (47.4% compared to 41.2% in 2015/16) sleeping rough and a reduced number of people from Central and Eastern Europe (30.3% in 2016/17 compared with 36.8% in 2015/16).
The precarious nature of housing
The data also highlights the precarious nature of housing for many people. Where information was recorded, 52% of individuals reported their last settled base as some form of long term accommodation, including 36% of people having previously lived in private rented accommodation. These figures are slightly lower than last year, when 57% of people reported their last settled base as some form of long term accommodation, including 39% having a last settled base in the private rented sector.
This year’s CHAIN data shows an increase in the number of people who left their last settled base after being either asked to leave or evicted, which remains the most common reason for leaving. This was the case for 33.3% of people responding this year, compared with 28.8% in 2015-16. The second most common reason people gave for leaving their last settled base remained ‘losing a job, to seek work, or study’, although this was true for fewer people this year (21.9%) than last year (28.3%). This further emphasises the need for homelessness prevention services and early intervention to ensure that an adverse life event, such as the loss of a job, does not cause people to lose their homes.
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Debra is research manager at Homeless Link, coordinating research into homelessness and across other areas of social exclusion. Debra is currently on maternity leave.
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