What does homelessness currently look like in London?
There are a wide range of situations that are described as homelessness which include; temporary accommodation, rough sleeping, hidden homelessness and statutory homelessness. Each form of homelessness comes with its own set of barriers and across all of them the numbers appear to be growing.
The latest data from Shelter shows that one in 208 people in England are without a home. Of these, 2,400 people are sleeping rough on any given night, 15,000 people are in hostels or supported accommodation and nearly 250,000 are living in temporary accommodation – most of whom are families. Amongst this, London remains the epicentre of the homelessness crisis with as many as 1 in 58 Londoners experiencing homelessness.
Research from London Councils shows that the homelessness total includes 81,000 children, meaning one in every 23 children in London is homeless. New research conducted by Savills and Rightmove on behalf of London Councils also suggests housing affordability for low-income Londoners in the private rented sector has shrunk even further due to increasing rents. A government freeze on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA – the level of housing support low-income households is entitled to) means only 4.2% of London properties are affordable to those relying on LHA to meet their housing costs. This is a dramatic fall from the 18.7% of properties that were affordable through LHA in 2020-21.
Looking at temporary accommodation research from Centre for London shows that 59% of all English households in temporary accommodation are in London: this represents 56,500 households. In their latest report they are calling on the Government to “set up a cross-departmental working group on temporary accommodation to look at supply issues, their cost to the public purse, and how they can be solved.”
The number of people living in temporary accommodation has risen by 74% in the last 10 years. Shelter argues that this is driven by the chronic shortage of social homes, and an over-reliance on grossly expensive and unstable private renting.
“Boroughs do everything they can to help homeless families, but the fundamental problem is the chronic shortage of affordable housing.”
The picture of hidden homelessness is harder to understand. The majority of homeless people are hidden from statistics and services as they are dealing with their situation informally. This means staying with family and friends, sofa surfing, living in unsuitable housing such as squats. Crisis estimated that as many as 62% of homeless people are not recorded on any official figures.
Homeless Link in their annual report stated that, “despite not being captured in official statistics, an increasing amount of research has begun to capture the scale of hidden homelessness in England.” The 2018-19 English Housing Survey found that 541,000 (2%) of households reported having someone living with them in the previous 12 months who would have otherwise been rough sleeping.
Homeless Link’s research also concludes that 45% of people sleeping rough – one of the most visible forms of homelessness - are in London. From the governments snapshot data on rough sleeping we can see that in autumn 2022 Westminster had the highest number of people sleeping rough. This interactive graph will show the comparisons from 2020-22 of the ten boroughs with the highest numbers.
How do we change this picture?
Our member Homeless Link states “Homelessness is not inevitable, and it is solvable. Collective action can help to change the systems that allow people to become homeless in the first place.” According them, the national membership charity for organisations working directly with people who become homeless in England, there are clear solutions to homelessness.
To prevent and end homelessness, we need:
- An increased supply of and access to truly affordable homes
- Increased investment in welfare support for those who need it
- Greater support for non-UK nationals who are at risk of homelessness
- Homelessness services that that are fully funded and fit for the future
- A cross-government strategy for tackling homelessness
Homeless Link go on to say that “During the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 the government worked with councils and charities to ensure that everyone without a home or at risk of losing their home was brought inside to safe accommodation. More than 33,000 were found emergency accommodation quickly and 23,000 were helped to find longer term accommodation. This proves what it is possible when everyone works together.”
Our member, Trust for London, is also active in this space sitting on the London Housing Panel alongside Homeless Link, the GLA and community partners. Their priorities are to:
- Massively increase social housing supply
- Support all Londoners to be heard and thrive
- Take action on temporary accommodation
If your organisation is doing more in this area, please link us in to share with our members at email@example.com
- Still living in limbo, Shelter - https://england.shelter.org.uk/professional_resources/policy_and_research/policy_library/living_in_limbo_-_survey_of_homeless_households_living_in_temporary_accommodation
- Temporary Accommodation: London’s hidden homelessness crisis, Centre for London - https://www.centreforlondon.org/publication/temporary-accommodation/
- Rough sleeping analysis, Homeless Link - https://homeless.org.uk/knowledge-hub/rough-sleeping-our-analysis/
- What are the solutions to Homelessness, Homeless Link - https://homeless.org.uk/knowledge-hub/what-are-the-solutions-to-homelessness/
- People sleeping rough data, Trust for London - https://www.trustforlondon.org.uk/data/rough-sleeping-london/
- About homelessness, Crisis - https://www.crisis.org.uk/ending-homelessness/about-homelessness/
- Which charities are fighting homelessness in the UK?, The Big Issue - https://www.bigissue.com/news/housing/which-charities-are-helping-fight-homelessness-in-the-uk/