However, latest figures show a 23% rise in rough sleeping from autumn 2010 to autumn 2011, to 2,181 people.
The government has responded with £18.5m for councils to provide advice for people at risk of homelessness. But its press release on the figures opens with a message for EU citizens not to come to London without firm plans (more than half of the 446 rough sleepers in London as of 2011 are from overseas).
“Non UK residents now account for over half the rough sleepers in our capital, so anyone heading here with tales of Dick Whittington in their head needs to realise that the streets of London and our other cities aren’t paved with gold,” says housing minister Grant Shapps.
However, the homelessness sector sees the causes of the rise as lying elsewhere – in cuts.
Here are some figures from a recent Homeless Link survey of 500 services:
• In the last year 75 homelessness projects have closed, in the last two years we have lost 2206 bed spaces in hostels and other accommodation services
• The number of services that do not have an empty bed on an average night has increased from 77% to 83%
• 58% of projects have had their budgets cut in the last year.
• 55% of projects have been told by councils to expect further cuts.
And St Mungo’s chief executive, Charles Fraser, says: “Homelessness and migration are inextricably linked, and without a coherent approach to helping people leave the streets behind them – through a combination of assertive outreach work, the No Second Night Out initiative, and emergency housing – we will continue to see people stuck on the streets whilst their health deteriorates.”
(Image on Flickr from sk8geek)