Rough sleeping

MQT on 2009-11-18
Session date: 
November 18, 2009
Question By: 
Steve O'Connell
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Will the Mayor give an update on the progress made to end rough sleeping by 2012?


Answer for Rough sleeping

Answer for Rough sleeping

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Thanks, Steve. There has been considerable progress on rough sleeping and today the London Delivery Board is meeting for the fourth time and we have had huge success in reducing the numbers of rough sleepers. That is particularly the entrenched rough sleepers who have gone down from 205, and there are now only 67 remaining on the streets. It is incredibly difficult to deal with cases of entrenched rough sleeping. People have a multiplicity of different problems in their lives and they come to a crisis, they find it very difficult to get through and they end up as rough sleepers. Those are the people that it is very, very hard to target.

I think the London Delivery Board has been very, very effective - and Rick Blakeway [Mayoral Adviser on Housing] for his role in chairing it - but I want to pay particular tribute to the London Boroughs who have really stepped up to the plate and worked hard to help these people to find the accommodation that they need.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Thank you, Mr Mayor. It is very timely, as we move into this festive Christmas period of largesse, that we do turn our attention and our thoughts to those vulnerable people on our streets and I do welcome your initiatives, particularly initiatives aimed at the entrenched rough sleepers, that lost tribe of people out there that, for five years or more, or even longer, have slept on these streets.

I think it is right, though, to applaud the work by the boroughs, which you did do. Certainly in my borough over the last six months, out of 31 verified rough sleepers, we have moved 21 into accommodation, but your target audience, Mr Mayor, I believe, is to be those entrenched rough sleepers and those who it is, almost, a tragic lifestyle of those people.

I would ask you first of all, Mr Mayor, London previously has had a pretty poor record based on Government targets around taking people off the streets. This progress that you have made recently; are you on target, Mr Mayor, to reach that target of people you need to remove from the streets?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As you know, Steve, the target is to end rough sleeping by 2012. That is going to be very ambitious and it is very difficult because, of course, times are tougher, the economy is in a bad way and, although we have had a great deal of success in dealing with these particular entrenched rough sleepers, I will not hide it from you there is an issue with new people whose lives have suddenly come adrift and are finding themselves sleeping rough. This will be discussed by the Delivery Board this afternoon. I am pleased that we are having success in dealing with the entrenched rough sleepers and I pay tribute, as I say, to the boroughs, but also to institutions like St Mungo's and the various hostels that have been so cooperative in taking people in.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Thank you, Mr Mayor. You did point out, quite properly, that over half of the rough sleepers on our streets are new to rough sleeping and we have a whole new population of rough sleepers, often a very high percentage - I think round about the 20%/25% - coming from immigration from eastern Europe. These are new numbers. These are not the entrenched lost tribe I touched upon earlier. Your actions in this initiative I do hope will be looking at supporting boroughs in addressing that new breed of rough sleeper.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You should know, Steve that 14% of rough sleepers are now central or eastern European origin and we are particularly concerned about that phenomenon. There is a programme called Thames Reach, which sits on the London Delivery Board, that has helped 160 east Europeans to find shelter and accommodation but they remain particularly vulnerable.

One of the interesting things is, historically, there have been a huge number of rough sleepers who have tended to be former service people who have encountered real problems in their lives. I asked for the figures on that and, actually, the numbers of former armed forces people are well down and they are only about 3% of those sleeping rough.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Thank you, Mr Mayor.