Fall in rough sleeping numbers

Enfield sees big drop in rough sleeping but still has sixth highest total in outer London, reports Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter, and James Cracknell

Rough sleeping (credit Jon Tyson via Unsplash)
Rough sleeping (credit Jon Tyson via Unsplash)

The number of people sleeping rough in London has fallen by 24% compared to last year, new figures have shown.

Enfield recorded the second-biggest drop in rough sleeping across the capital between 2020/21 and 2021/22, with a 44% decline. However, Enfield continues to have higher numbers than most other outer London boroughs.

A total of 8,329 people were seen sleeping rough in London during the 2021/22 financial year, down from 11,018 the previous year.

In Enfield the numbers fell from 326 to 183. Barnet’s dropped from 282 to 173, while Waltham Forest saw a decline from 261 to 153. Enfield’s current total of 183 still remains significantly higher than the 100 rough sleepers recorded in 2018/19, the last full year before the pandemic.

Haringey, which is classed as an inner London borough, recorded rough sleeping numbers of 405 in 2020/21 and 268 in 2021/22.

The latest quarterly report from the City Hall-commissioned Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) found that, while the vast majority of those sleeping rough in London were UK nationals, 22% were from central and eastern Europe, including 14% from Romania.

This contrasts with Enfield, where less than half (43%) of rough sleepers were UK nationals and 26% were central or eastern European.

Of those in London seen sleeping rough in 2021/22, 70% were assessed as having a support need, while 50% needed mental health assistance.

Among Enfield’s rough sleepers last year, 83% were men, and 41% were under the age of 35. Most rough sleepers (56%) were of white ethnicity, but this represents a lower proportion of the borough’s white population (at 61%), meaning ethnic minorities were more likely to end up sleeping rough.

Responding to the latest figures, London mayor Sadiq Khan said it was “encouraging” that fewer people were sleeping rough on London’s streets, but that “there is more work to do to end this crisis”.

He said: “During the pandemic London led the country in bringing people in off the streets. My pioneering ‘in for good’ principle meant that, following our intervention, more than 80% of those we supported weren’t seen sleeping rough again.

“Ministers now must step up their support to combat the cost-of-living crisis which threatens to reverse these hard-won gains. I also urge them to fund the services and social security system that people sleeping rough need, reform the private rented sector and invest in new council and genuinely affordable homes to help prevent Londoners becoming homeless in the first place.”

In the final reporting quarter of 2021/22, a total of 27 people were identified as new rough sleepers who were classified as living on the streets in London, down from 40 the previous quarter. There were 275 new rough sleepers spending more than one night on the streets but not classified as living on the streets, while there were 993 new rough sleepers who had no second night on the streets.