The Tories have just overseen another rise in homelessness. And two other crises of their making are driving it.

Theresa May Homelessness
Steve Topple

New figures seen by The Canary have revealed a large rise in the number of people living on the streets of London, under the watch of the Conservative government. But the driving force behind the rise in homelessness appears to be two other crises that the Tories are presiding over.

Staggering

Figures from the the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) for the number of rough sleepers in London for July-September have been released. And they show that the number has increased by 1% on the previous year, to 2,659 on any given night. But the devil of the report is in the detail. Because CHAIN found that:

  • “New” rough sleeper numbers were actually down on 2016, by 8%.
  • The number of rough sleepers classed as “living” on London’s streets was up 16% on 2016.
  • “Intermittent” rough sleepers, or those who spent occasional nights on the streets, was up 7% on the same period in 2016.
  • 57% of rough sleepers were persistently homeless.
  • In total, 57% of rough sleepers were UK-born, with 20% from central and eastern Europe.

While CHAIN does not provide analysis of why there has been an increase in the number of long-term rough sleepers, two charts give an indication.

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Cause and effect?

Firstly:

Homelessness London One

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In total, 82% of rough sleepers had either addiction or mental health issues, or a combination of the two. Meanwhile, under the Tories’ watch:

  • Between 2010 and 2015, mental health trusts lost the equivalent of £598m from their budgets each year.
  • Findings show that there are still around £4.5m of mental health spending cuts across five areas of England to come.
  • 726 patients a month are being treated “out of area” from where they live.
  • The number of people arriving in A&E with psychiatric issues has doubled since 2010.
  • Over a third of NHS trusts have cut addiction services.
  • There has been a 24% cut to residential rehabilitation services in the last four years.

And the second graph from CHAIN:

Homelessness London Two

And while 39% of rough sleepers had been to prison, the Tories privatised the entire probation/rehabilitation service for low and medium risk offenders in 2015, outsourcing 8,600 jobs at the same time.

The crisis of homelessness

The figures from CHAIN should be taken with a pinch of salt. As GetWestLondon noted:

Rough sleepers accounted for in the study only include those encountered by a commissioned outreach worker bedded down on the street, or in other open spaces or locations not designed for habitation, such as doorways, stairwells, parks or derelict buildings.

The report does not include people from “hidden homeless” groups such as those “sofa surfing” or living in squats, unless they have also been spotted sleeping rough.

The number of homeless people in London, and the UK, is probably far more than analysis from groups like CHAIN actually shows. And while the increase in London is extremely worrying, it is not surprising. The Tories have been presiding over this crisis for the past seven years.

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