Since the pandemic began the number of people forced to sleep rough has increased dramatically.
During the first lockdown the government made resources available to get those already on the streets into safe accommodation. Since then – despite the number of those on the streets increasingly significantly – the money has failed to keep pace with the increasing scale of the problem.
The latest release of the CHAIN statistics, funded by the Mayor of London and managed by the charity St Mungo’s, make clear that that has to change.
The latest quarterly report revealed that 3,307 people had been seen sleeping rough between October and December 2020 with 1,582 people sleeping rough for the first time.
The numbers also showed a year-on-year increase for the third consecutive quarter of 16-25 year olds sleeping rough, from 287 in 2019 to 300 this year (5%).
Over the course of 2020, around one in ten (9%) of those found sleeping rough have been under 25 - an historic high.
At the start of the pandemic government money enabled regional mayors, local councils, and charities to provide age-appropriate accommodation for rough sleepers. Since then, operating without that money, providing those services has either become almost impossible or required money to be diverted from other public services.
In a recent Centrepoint report survey data found that only 31% of youth homelessness organisations thought there was sufficient support available for rough sleepers in their area. In London, the mayor and local councils estimate there’s a £20 million shortfall in the funding they need to keep rough sleepers in safe.
That’s why we’re calling on the government to make good on its commitment to support all rough sleepers through the pandemic, and to follow through on their commitment to end rough sleeping in this parliament.
In practice that means providing more funding to ensure that night shelters and homelessness services can accommodate everyone who needs support. But crucially it also means providing accommodation for different age groups, as for many young people the prospect of all age accommodation can scare them into staying out on the streets.
At the start of the pandemic the government showed this was possible by funding a nationwide effort to accommodate rough sleepers. With the vaccination rollout still in its early stages we urgently need them to fund a second wave of support to keep homeless people safe.