The number of rough sleepers without drink, drug or mental health problems rose by more than eighty per cent after the pandemic hit.
After the first lockdown, in March 2020, the number of rough sleepers without addiction problems or a history of mental ill health surged by 84 per cent.
It is believed job losses during the pandemic, problems at home being intensified during lockdown, and being unable to access support from usual networks including friends have all contributed to growing numbers of people sleeping rough for the first time.
A new report from the London Assembly’s housing committee highlights a need for support services to adapt to help the changing demographic of homelessness in the city, and calls for further investment from the mayor.
Rough sleepers are increasingly younger. The number of under-25s sleeping rough has increased by half compared to this time last year. There are also a third more Romanian rough sleepers and a third more African rough sleepers.
The London Assembly says it needs to help around 10,000 people find a long-term home.
Proposals include more dedicated support for the under 25s, and tailored services for LGBT+ people and ethnic minority groups, as well as improved legal advice and help for European nationals and those with no recourse to public funds.
Murad Qureshi AM, Chair of the London Assembly’s housing committee, said: “Last year, we saw a huge multi-agency effort to help homeless people into safe accommodation.
“It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for that to happen. The time has come to seize the opportunity and build on the success of charity, authorities and health service collaboration.
“Londoners now need to see that effort continue, but with dedicated support too.
“People sleeping on the streets need specialised services rather than a one-size-fits-all plan.
“A person with extreme addictions does not need the same support as someone fleeing domestic abuse.
“The city deserves stronger action for ending homelessness. The five-point plan lays out how the mayor’s strategy can respond to rough sleepers who are LGBT, young people or jobless.
“The government’s national leadership and funding is key. London can lead the way in solving the homelessness problem once and for all.”
For help and to donate towards helping the homeless go to https://www.shelter.org.uk/