Rough sleepers in London

The number of rough sleepers in London is increasing steadily and the demographic of those sleepers has changed, a report has found.

Broadway, which manages the Combined Homelessness and Information Network database has found that 3,472 people were sleeping rough in 2008/09, a spike of 455 on last year and up from 2,500 in 2004/05.

Its report, Profiling London’s Rough Sleepers, examines characteristics of more than 13,000 people who have been seen sleeping rough in the capital over the last decade. The report also finds that there has been a decline in very young and very old rough sleepers.

While the proportion of first-time rough sleepers from what it describes as a ‘white ethnic’ background has steadily declined from 80 per cent in 2000/01 to 63 per cent in 2007/08, those identified as black or black British grew from 13 per cent to 20 per cent.

In the year 2008/2009, the largest group of rough sleepers from outside the UK was Polish (244) with the next group being Eritrean (127). Some 92 per cent of these Eritreans were new to the streets, says the report. ‘There is a misperception among [Eritreans] that sleeping rough will eventually result in access to social housing,’ it adds.
The report attributes the rise in Eritrean numbers to a wave of asylum claims being accepted in the last couple of years resulting in people leaving asylum support accommodation with little notice. Racism towards those Eritrean communities dispersed to whiter areas had forced many to flee to London where an Eritrean community, relatives or Eritrean Pentecostal Churches may have drawn them into the capital.

A spokesperson at the Communities and Local Government department’s rough sleeping team said: ‘The profiling and models developed through this research are already informing policy here at CLG and will ultimately impact on the practical, dedicated work happening everyday to change the lives of those who sleep on the streets of London.’

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