The Salvation Army is warning new figures showing a fall in rough sleepers in London may only be short term.
The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) figures1 show 9 per cent fewer rough sleepers in Greater London than the same quarter last year. However, the church and charity believe this reflects the success of efforts to shelter all rough sleepers during the pandemic and that numbers will creep up if COVID-19 support structures are removed.
Local, regional and national politicians are being urged to invest in long-term solutions to eradicate homelessness, something that can only be achieved through proper funding for homelessness support services.
The CHAIN figures also show that 48 per cent are described as new rough sleepers, showing that yet more needs to be done to prevent people from falling into the homelessness spiral. The Salvation Army is deeply concerned that much of the current Government homelessness funding is only short term and support to help people tackle the reasons they became homeless in the first place requires sustainable long-term investment.
The Salvation Army has written to London Mayoralty candidates in the lead up to May’s election, asking them to pledge that they will work to end homelessness and rough sleeping in the capital.
Lorrita Johnson, The Salvation Army’s Director of Homelessness Services, said:
“Although real progress was made as part of the ‘Everyone In’ initiative2 and other schemes to help prevent and relieve homelessness during the pandemic, it is vital we keep up the momentum and ensure long-term investment for homelessness services. This is key as an economic downturn is likely to mean more people are forced to sleep on the streets in the coming months and years.
“The Salvation Army continues to help people housed in hotels and similar accommodation during the pandemic to ensure they can move on to a more permanent place to call home. For example, The Salvation Army has provided floating support in Bristol to support people as they move out of hotels into more permanent, dedicated accommodation.
“I look forward to working with the elected mayor of London to press the case for the necessary government funding to eradicate homelessness.”
The London CHAIN figures are the only quarterly produced data in England which measures rough sleeping. One of the key asks of Government by The Salvation Army is that they introduce robust recording of rough sleeper numbers across the country so that support services can be sufficiently planned and funded.
Lorrita added: “Without accurately knowing how many people are forced to call the streets their home, support services cannot be properly planned or sustainably funded.
“The Government cannot commit appropriate funding because it simply doesn’t know the scale of people out there needing help, without bringing in an accurate measure it runs the risk of missing its own goal to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament.”