How big a problem do you think rough sleeping is in London? Has it been getting better or worse?
There seems to be a big increase in the number of people sleeping rough. Cannot some of the many unoccupied houses in London be used to provide temporary accomodation and hostels.
They should be.
I suspect it's getting worse. The gentrification of London via things like off-plan sales amounts to social cleansing. Some who are pressured to move away will return to the places they know & end up homeless in the places they know. Homelessness can kill.
Rough Sleeping in London on the whole is a mental health issue, and should be dealt with primarily by those charities and others who have direct understanding of these complexities.
It's a lot worse. I recently counted 15 rough sleepers along the Strand and 5 in the area around Victoria Station on the same night.
In my experience, rough sleeping is as bad now as it was in the latter Thatcher years. ASBOs seem to have gone the way of the dodo. Yes, I agree that a lot of rough sleepers. are dealing with mental health issues, but there are also a lot of drug (including alcohol) user issues creating rough sleeping. The fact is that multiple governments have refused to re-examine some of the main causes of rough sleeping, such as a more reasonable and sympathetic approach to drug users; treatment rather than punishment; and more, much much more social housing.
This is a very opportune survey, I discovered a few days ago that a friend of over 40 years was sleeping rough, well over pension age. I managed to make contact and they are now staying with me. I have tried an initial private meeting with the local council, I will after all be discussing his personal data, but no I must attend an open session which as a disabled man is hard to do in the first place, but I did not know who to contact about someone that originally lived in the next constituency.
This needs to be delicately handled and I have not been impressed by RUT response. I cannot conduct it over my home phone, in front of my guest who has pride, the cause of their problems, local social services, who I might have contacted, hide behind locked doors and only speak via the phone, again not possible.
It hurts me to remain seated/standing for long periods, making the journey itself is painful. The ability to be able to actually see someone and discuss the matter, privately, is paramount and so far this council have been less than helpful, if this is the London wide attitude when it comes to helping anyone that has had a period of depression after loosing their partner and as a result of that their home then I dispair that we will ever help them. It needs a major sea change in the attitude of permanent managers and directors who have devised and implemented these contact arrangements, perhaps they should try being on the other side for a month and maybe they will change systems and proceedures to start treating people that really badly need help. To add to it I am probably jeopodising my own tenancy by have, a non paying, long term guest until such time as I can help him get back on his feet, I couldn't be callous a leave a 68 year old, wearing a terminator style harness while waiting for an hip operation appointment, how long?, to correct a prior bodged operation, on the streets. Every part of his previous council along with the NHS have just piled on the agony.
The questions about begging were not open enough, when I gave some money to an homeless guy, it wasn't because he was begging, it was because I knew of his history, not related to my other post today. His wife divorced him, kept the house and he was on the streets, he did his best to keep himself well presented, but at a cost to his poverty level benefit and I just happened to see him one night, got chatting and dropped into the conversation about eating that Sunday, he casually replied no so I gave him a £10 to get himself something, he wasn't one the the alcho's which wouldn't have got it, he was just a pleasant young man that through no fault of his own was deemed fit enough enough to look after himself, having just had his life totally wrecked with no support from anyone, but as a man he can get on with it, very sexist and unfair treatment, there but for the grace of god go I.
The situation is far more complex than ticking boxes and formulaic interviews with a supercilious interviewer, who becomes not just unsupportive but obstructive to helping them out of the mess they find themselves in.
I accept there is an hard core of alcholic, drug users, and old style tramps they cannot or do not want any help, so lets help the ones that do need it even if pride and personal dignity (I personally know a lot about that view) which stops them asking.
I agree-the questions give no option to answer in own words.
The number of homeless people are on the increase mainly because of the shortage of social housing as private rental is so expensive and beyond the means of people who are on the street for whatever reason. Its frustrating that there are so many empty properties that could be used. There is a large office block on the North Circular road that has been empty for at least fifteen years why can't this be knocked down and flats built? You could get a lot of properties on that footprint and house a lot of people but it seems it better to leave it empty and let it get vandalised.
There should be some sort of process that if any properties( both residential and commercial) have been empty for a considerable amount of time then they local authority should have the power to compulsory purchase and convert it to social or affordable housing
I don't believe there are many genuine homeless people. Most just choose this way of living or came from another country and didn't get everything they were promised.
A few do choose to sleep rough; the vast majority don't. Most people are also from the UK, mainly London. I volunteer on street outreach schemes and with a homelessness charity: the people we meet are definitely sleeping rough (we go out in the early hours), many have done so for years but still see finding permanent accommodation as their aim. Support for people who come from outside of the UK is limited: when looking for accommodation, rough sleepers need to demonstrate that they are from the local area, so for example even if you came from Southwark you would be unlikely to be eligible for help in Westminster; if you came from outside London or outside the UK, the chances of you being able to access council support are tiny.
Why not spend this Christmas volunteering at a shelter and see if that changes your perceptions?
Its getting worse. They aren't just drunks in soho... its people with jobs sleeping in cars and tents as rents are more than take home pay, debt, relationship break ups, evictions so many reasons. Can anyone blame them for ending up with dependancy issues when having to exist on the streets? Then there are the young people. Thank the gods for charitys like crisis and centrepoint etc. Rough sleepers are out in zone 4 where I live and they don't beg and are always gracious. In central touristy london its hard to know who is genuine and who is from a professional gang.
I totally agree with you, there are a few agressive drunks in Twickenham but they are well outnumbered by the gracious ones who for whatever reasons and I gave one earlier are homeless, there is only so much I can do and wish the council would actively respond and not leave it to over stretched charities.
You are right about central London although I had an amusing experience 3 weeks ago when I attended a Radio 4 show at the Beeb, when I left with my bag of Dad's Army purchases, then stopped to get some trainers and got another bag. Halfway down Oxford Street, hobbling on my stick and struggling with 2 bags (I can't stop laughing writing this), a very kind guy offered me a takeaway meal he had just bought and I realised I looked like some bagman trying to find somewhere to lay my head for the night. hehehe I still don't know if I was being insulted about my appearance or he was just being generous to someone he thought who needed help. Old age and disabled don't make me look at my best anytime, hehehe. It did round off my evening and I did decline the meal though as I had just eaten. I must have looked like a gibbering idiot as I walked to TCR station laughing all the way.
Yes, it has become worse again. There was a lull for a few years, but there now seem to be a lot of street beggars and rough sleepers on the streets, especially close to the entrance to Charing Cross Tube, close to St Martin's Church.
The number of people sleeping on the streets has increased enormously. We need more social housing, more mental health care and jobs that pay a real living wage to combat it.
I've noticed an increase in rough sleeping in recent years in Central London. Lack of social housing and high rents are the major factors in play. Many people are only a month or two's pay cheque away from being homeless. An inadequate and hostile benefit system designed to punish rather than help quickly pushes people over the edge into depression and anxiety after they've lost their job and are scared about their housing situation. It's difficult to get mental health care as providers are overwhelmed as are the services that are supposed to be able to stop people from becoming homeless.
While more needs to be done to address the need for rough sleeping, there's the issue of the homeless who aren't actually sleeping on the streets (yet). Sofa surfing and living in somebody's spare room without their landlord knowing is on the increase. These people can't claim benefits or vote because of their housing situation and some can't even get a bank account.
According to the Shelter website, 1 in 25 are homeless in Westminster. There are so many luxury apartments being built that only the very rich can afford. Developers are now claiming they can't make much of a profit so that they dodge the requirement to include social housing.
The system is seriously broken and will only get worse without a major change to the status quo.
When walking through central London and the west end on my way to work each morning large amounts of rough sleepers gather at certain points, these being feeding stations set up by well meaning organizations.
I strongly believe that these be stopped as it is encouraging and prolonging the problem.
London is a tough place to live with little or no money but is also a magnet, London offers opportunity for everybody but we must be careful not to encourage a situation where these practices are deemed acceptable, anybody that has to clear away the debris and filth left behind some of these people each morning before opening for business will agree.
If you travel across Europe this is not as big an issue even though housing costs are comparable, what are we doing wrong
Providing help doesn't really encourage rough sleeping. Many rough sleepers don't come from outside London but where living London and subsequently ended up losing their accommodation. Of those who did come from outside London, most came in the hope of finding employment, not to sleep rough and access charitable aid. Most places which provide rough sleepers with something to eat also offer medical services, mental health services, advice on employment and accommodation, and so can help address the problem of rough sleepers in the long term.
London is certainly a tough place with little or no money, in part because accommodation costs are high and wages are often too low to meet them - particularly in low-paid jobs such as cleaning and kitchen portering. The problem is exacerbated by short-term contracts and uncertain hours. I have met some people who are employed but still have to sleep rough because they simply cannot find anywhere in London which they can afford. Closing charities providing services for rough sleepers will only make the problem worse (not least because councils often contract these charities to provide services such as outreach work).
I have lived in the EU and housing costs, rent wise, are considerably lower than the UK, let alone London. What are we doing wrong?, well the list is endless but it starts with government and setting a reasonable minimum wage to begin with, because there are homeless workers that cannot afford to have a roof over their heads. I will leave it to others for each of them to post one reason each and it will be a long list.
Rough sleeping is a major problem in London, but it needs a holistic approach, not just provision of more social housing. Rough sleeping and homelessness is generally caused and then exacerbated by one or more of the following: mental health problems, financial problems, drugs/alcohol/addiction, relationship breakdown, and institutionalisation. Providing the physical roof over someone's head will not solve the problem per se: support to address underlying issues (mental health, physical health, relationships, employment etc) is needed alongside it. Providing somewhere dry, safe (and preferably clean and private - hostels are often not pleasant places and many rough sleepers would prefer to be on the streets) creates a context where these underlying issues can more easily be addressed, which in turn makes it more likely that someone will successfully find and stay in permanent accommodation.
Sorry but I definitely disagree that this is a government issue.
If people are carrying out work at a rate that cannot sustain a reasonable lifestyle why are they doing so, I have spent my career working in construction which is by default short term contracting, i.e. the so called gig economy, no work no pay, no guarantee of work let alone hours.
if the job cannot afford to pay a living wage it gets no workers and the building does not get built.
if a shop, hotel, restaurant cannot afford to pay a living wage then it is our immorality in insisting on nice things at cut prices that needs to change not government policy. Should we be paying more at the till to ensure this does not happen or do we agree to higher tax rates to subsidize by the back door, either way.
it is down to us not the government to vote with our feet and wallets, housing costs are only as high as they are because of our insistence on making ever increasing paper profits on our possessions not on government policies.
While I agree that everyone should be paid a good wage to begin with, it can often be extremely difficult as an individual consumer to be sure that everyone in a business is being paid a living wage. For example, a large department store might pay the staff it employs directly a living wage, but might put security and cleaning services out to tenure to companies which might not pay the living wage; or a restaurant might pay their staff the living wage, but the delivery person who brings the ingredients each morning might not. I can ask the store owner or restaurant owner if their staff are paid the living wage, but might not be able to find out whether everyone who works on the premises is paid a living wage. We can vote with our feet and our wallets, but I think that local council support is also needed to ensure that living wages are paid. There is also the issue of the 'black economy', with unregistered workers/businesses avoiding paying minimum wages (let alone a living wage). It is illegal, and so definitely a government law enforcement issue, but it will still create problems with rough sleeping in the meantime.
However, the issue of rough sleeping isn't purely about wages: there are wider issues of mental health, physical health, institutionalisation etc which are social issues and as much a government responsibility as health care or education. There is also a difference between addressing the causes and addressing the actuality of rough sleeping. Even if we voted with our feet and wallets to make businesses pay a better wage and was exceptionally successful, there would still be a time lag between better wages being paid and a reduction in the number of people unable to afford accommodation during which rough sleeping would still be a major problem. I would consider providing some relief for those people to be a local council concern.
Thanks everyone for your comments so far.
Have you done anything to help a rough sleeper recently? What action did you take?
2 things actually.
1st I gave £10 for a well kempt, he was homeless but kept some dignity and looked after himself, rough sleeper to have a meal.
2nd I discovered a friend of 44 years, with a failed hip operation, was sleeping rough, he is now staying with me and I will do my best to get him back in to a decent home of his own, but obviously need help from the council and my first contact was not encouraging. He was actually 999'd to hospital, last night, for emergency surgery today, as his hip went out for the 7th time when the temporary terminator style support failed, just how long is temporary after 6 failures?.
I can only say that when help is needed, and I need some, it isn't there and the attitude is less than satisfactory or even of any help at all. I am 65 and very mobility disabled, he is older than me and the system failed him when he needed it, pride meant he didn't ask for it, that was a green light by whoever to do nothing and this is the result, I hope they feel satisfied that at least they saved some money, short term only of course, because the council will have to pick longer term costs just as the NHS are finding out today.
It's a big problem still and will remain so until Government grasp the nettle. There needs to be far more mental health help, and far more social housing. Employment law is probably in the mix too as some people become homeless as a result of losing jobs.
In my opinion it is not a big problem yet, but it's getting worse.
have noticed a dramatic increase over the past couple of years
A big problem, and it seems to be getting worse - a lot worse. Am now getting begging on the Tube and TFL Overground as a regular thing... I sympathise, but really do not want to get this... The benefits reductions and sanctions seem to have caused quite a lot, and there also appear to be a lot of ex-Forces homeless. Would suggest that the military need to have better resettlement plans, and make sure that they're caring for people leaving the Forces, for starters... Would also suggest that some empty homes/offices are used as temporary (or not so temporary) hostels.
Because we have unregulated Migration from the EU - not the same as Free Movement of Workers (not People) under EU Rules - persons simply enter the UK either to escape conditions in their home country or to do casual work for cash and regard the UK as a country that is tolerant of homeless people
I do not donate to rough sleepers on the street as I would be concerned that they might spend the money on alcohol or drugs.
If there were a London wide voucher scheme with hostels, that each rough sleeper could be given a code for, that members of the public could make a donation to via text, so that they could have a bed for the night, I would be happy to donate.
There is an alarmingly increasing number of foreign beggars in Westminster borough. They pretend to be rough sleepers and take up large chunks of pavements and open spaces. They beg aggressively and also pry for pickpocketing or other thefts when possible. They lurk for vulnerable older people . They blatantly steal at local supermarkets . They are pushing away the traditional genuine rough sleepers , there have been even arguments and fights witnessed. These beggars are part of a criminal gang who imprts them from Romania and other places and then dispatches them across London with vans ever morning. They are collected again in the evening so they dont sleep rough , and they have to report their loot and gains to the gang masters. All that is happening in Central London . Begging is forbidden by law but no arrests seem to be made , at least not enough. Time to put things in order and enforce the laws.
I just completed the survey about housing strategy and half of all questions were about rough sleeping.
There are many underlying issues to make people sleep rough (drugs, mental heslth, criminality, illegal status etc) and I very much doubt that lack of housing is the main cause.
Why does rough sleeping even show as reason in a housing strategy ????
There was a recent campaign in support of a young mother of two small kids who was made homeless by Lambeth council because she was in rent arrears as a result of complications in the payment of her welfare benefits. Apparently the changes in the benefits system has caused cases like this to become more and more common. Shocking.