Sadiq Khan launches London’s first rough sleeping charter as homelessness in the capital soars

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City Hall says the cost-of-living crisis, rising rents and benefit cuts have created the “perfect storm” forcing more people onto the streets.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has launched London’s first ever rough sleeping charter as homelessness figures have risen in the capital.

More than 100 charities, faith groups, businesses and people with lived experience have helped to design and develop the charter which sets out six key principles to which signatories have committed.

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These include ensuring that people sleeping rough are safe from violence, abuse, theft and discrimination and that they have the full protection of the law.

City Hall says the cost-of-living crisis, rising rents and benefit cuts have created the “perfect storm” forcing more people onto the streets.

The latest ‘snapshot’ government figures, published earlier this year, showed rough sleeping has increased in every region of England year-on-year, including in London.

Sadiq Khan signs London's first rough sleeping charterSadiq Khan signs London's first rough sleeping charter
Sadiq Khan signs London's first rough sleeping charter | GLA

City Hall’s Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) data showed a 12% increase in total during the period July-September 2023, compared to the previous year, with outreach teams recording 4068 individuals sleeping rough in the city.

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Speaking at the charter’s launch at St John’s Church in Waterloo, called for the government to put an end to evictions from Home Office accommodation during the full duration of periods of extreme weather.

The British Red Cross has previously warned that changes to Home Office policy could leave over 50,000 people across the country homeless

London Councils also released new figures showing that a growing number of refugees are ending up homeless on the streets of the capital after leaving Home Office accommodation.

The cross party group has reported 846 homelessness cases made in October from refugees and asylum-seekers evicted from Home Office accommodation such as hotels- a 39% increase from September’s figure.

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People who had been granted refugee status while staying in asylum accommodation were not being given enough notice to find new places to stayPeople who had been granted refugee status while staying in asylum accommodation were not being given enough notice to find new places to stay
People who had been granted refugee status while staying in asylum accommodation were not being given enough notice to find new places to stay | AFP via Getty Images

“What the government has to do is to make sure those in Home Office accommodation aren’t evicted this winter unless they have somewhere to go,” the mayor told LondonWorld.

“Firstly if they have nowhere else to go they'll end up on the streets but secondly the temperatures are so cold that could ultimately lead to a loss of life.

“We’ve seen up north a couple of rough sleepers who have lost their lives because they have been out in the cold and we can’t afford that to happen in London so I’m asking the government to not evict anyone who is in Home Office accommodation till the winter is over and make sure they have somewhere safe to go.”

The mayor also called for an emergency winter package of support from the government to avoid people having to sleep rough this winter, with £20m for emergency accommodation and support.

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The additional funding would help ensure that there is sufficient emergency accommodation and support during cold weather across the capital this winter.

London Councils is also asking for government funding to sustain severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) provision and to fund a local wraparound support model that can be rolled out in all boroughs.

SWEP was already triggered last week and boroughs fear how services will cope should there be a repeat of last winter’s weather conditions.

“City Hall works really closely with the charities and other groups to make sure we can open emergency accommodation when temperatures approach freezing,” the mayor continued.

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“The problem is there are now more and more people who are rough sleepers. In previous years the number of people we were supporting was fewer and now it's gone up in the last year alone with an increase of more than 12% of people sleeping rough.”

The government has been approached for comment.

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