Around 65 new people are coming on to the streets of Westminster each month, putting the council’s target of reducing the number of rough sleepers to under 100 under pressure, according to senior homelessness managers in the London borough.
Westminster Council’s latest official figure for the London borough stands at 156 rough sleepers – and it is estimated that around one third of people are Eastern Europeans with no access to benefits.
The borough has the highest number of rough sleepers in the whole of the UK.
Janet Haddington, manager of rough sleeping and street activity at Westminster Council told Community Care the borough had become “a rough sleeper’s airport”.
She said: “We are seeing more than the total number of rough sleepers passing through any other boroughs every month on a single night.”
Haddington rebutted a number of recent allegations made by some rough sleepers and campaigners that Westminster had resorted to putting people under pressure to move on in the run-up to the most recent street count at the end of October.
Police were said to be handing out travel tickets to destinations in the UK and “hosing down” rough sleepers’ sites. The council has also been accused of placing people in ring-fenced beds in the run-up to the count in order to get lower count results.
Haddington said the activities were “routine” and but denied that rough sleepers were being treated badly.
Ellen Flynn, the director of the Passage day centre, said she was concerned that Eastern European rough sleepers were becoming victims of racism and violence on the streets.