Number of young rough sleepers increases to ‘historic high’


Two of London’s leading youth homelessness charities have warned Sadiq Khan he must ‘refocus’ City Hall’s efforts on the number of under-25s facing homelessness in the city following another steep rise in the number of young people found rough sleeping in London this year.

Centrepoint and New Horizon Youth Centre made the call following today’s release of the latest CHAIN report, which provides information about people seen rough sleeping by outreach teams in London from July to September this year.

The report revealed that 3444 people had been seen sleeping rough between July and September 2020 with 1,901 people sleeping rough for the first time.

It also showed a increase for the second consecutive quarter, compared to last year, of 16-25 year olds sleeping rough. July to September 2020 saw a rise from 250 in 2019 to 368 this year (47%). The previous quarter saw a similar increase (48%). Young people now make up 11% of the capital’s rough sleeping – an historic high.

The increase in the number of young people sleeping rough means there is a widening age-gap in provision in the Mayor’s response to street homelessness.

The two charities sat on the young people’s working group of the Mayor’s rough sleeping taskforce which earlier this year recommended an increase in the number of bed-spaces available for under-25s only. There are currently no such bed-spaces in the capital.

These concerns were further highlighted by the Centrepoint Helpline, which has seen an unprecedented growth in calls in recent months. The number of young people getting in touch was up by more than 50% in comparison to previous years. Both charities expect further increases due to new Tier 2 restrictions, which make ‘sofa surfing’ – usually the preferred option for homeless young people -effectively illegal.

The combination of the coronavirus restrictions and lack of age appropriate rough sleeping provision means London’s young people might have to choose between asking their hosts to break the law, spending a night feeling unsafe in an all aged emergency accommodation or sleeping rough.

Responding to the findings Paul Brocklehurst, Centrepoint’s Helpline Manager, said:

“London is increasingly ill-equipped to deal with the scale of young people we are seeing forced to sleep rough. Now, with local lockdowns looming, time is running out to ensure adequate, age appropriate provision is in place.

“The Mayor needs to refocus his efforts and the resources he has at his disposal to address this rise in young people rough sleeping. Working with the boroughs, we need to see more services which recognise that young people coming off the streets  need stability and tailored support but, in mixing them into services with older rough sleepers, there’s a real danger they’ll be exposed to further harm.”

“Night shelters and homelessness services need to reflect the need across different age groups. The Mayor and central government recognise that rough sleepers need more emergency accommodation but things have changed since lockdown began and, now that we’re seeing these almost unprecedented numbers of young people rough sleeping, it’s time funding allocations recognised that.”