Photograph by Chris King

News from Siân Berry: 1 in 4 Londoners have offered up space to homeless friends and family

24 April 2019

Londoners have offered space to homeless friends and family

Generous Londoners are shouldering the burden of the housing crisis as new research commissioned by Sian Berry shows that a quarter of people in the city have opened their homes to others in need. [1]

The survey, commissioned from YouGov, also showed that 1 in ten Londoners have hosted a friend in need in the past year, including three per cent – approximately 110,000 households [2] – who currently have someone staying with them who would otherwise be homeless.

Until this survey, the extent to which Londoners are shouldering the burden of the housing crisis was not known. The results show that the number of Londoners stepping up to help provide places to stay is nearly double the 57,000 households currently being housed by councils in temporary accommodation. [2] 

The London Assembly Housing Committee report in 2017, Hidden Homelessness, found that a wide range of people become homeless and end up temporarily housed out of sight of public services, with young people and LBGT+ Londoners particularly affected as they find it hard to get help from the authorities or prove vulnerability. [3] 

While some end up sleeping rough, or are left in vulnerable situations staying with strangers who may exploit or abuse them, many more temporarily homeless people end up staying on sofas and spare rooms with friends or family.

Of the people who had ever hosted someone in their home, 50 per cent had hosted two or more people in this way.

Sian Berry says:

“No one in London is oblivious to the crisis we have in our city when it comes to enough homes, decent homes and affordable homes.

“The fact that a quarter of Londoners have hosted a friend, acquaintance or family member in need is a credit to the generosity and compassion of the people who make up our city.

“We have a particular problem in London and no one is immune to having to rely on a friend’s spare room or sofa for somewhere to sleep. People between tenancies, who have been evicted, who have had to leave a home because of a family or relationship breakdown can all find themselves without a place to go.

“But it should not be left to Londoners to make up for failings in our ability to provide homes for our citizens, many of whom are already living in overcrowded conditions. The Mayor and the Government should be making sure councils have all the resources they need to prevent homelessness and provide secure homes when people need them, so no one is left living precariously in a home they can’t call their own.”

Notes to editors

Sian is available for interview.

[1] YouGov survey, all figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,131 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th - 28th February 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+).

The questions asked:
People who are temporarily without a home – which could be due to evictions, family or relationship breakdowns, waiting for a tenancy to start, while applying for help from local authorities etc. – can be helped by family members, friends or others who let them sleep in spare rooms or on sofas for a period of time. 

Have you ever had anyone stay in your home in London in this way?

You previously said you’ve had someone/some people stay in the spare room or sofa of your home. How many people have you ever helped in this way?

And have you personally ever been helped by a family member, friend or someone else in this way in London, i.e. being allowed to stay in their spare room or on their sofa?

[2] UK Government live tables on homelessness, data at end of Q2 2018.

Number of households in London 3.65 million. 3 per cent is approximately 110,000. 57,000 households are reported by councils as living in temporary accommodation.

[3] Hidden Homelessness in London, London Assembly Housing Committee, Sept 2017

Sian Berry was elected as a Green member of the London Assembly in May 2016. She has been a councillor for Highgate ward in Camden since 2014.

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