London is a great city and it’s also one of the richest in the world. So why do we still have people sleeping on the streets –- and is it something the next mayor can really do anything about?
Last year over 5,200 people slept rough in London, a 38% increase on 2010 –- and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Over 12,000 households were accepted by their council as homeless and entitled to accommodation last year; one in nine Londoners are waiting for a social home; more than 12,000 people are living every night in hostels and thousands more get by in hidden situations such as sleeping on the floors of friends and family, in squats, sheds and other temporary and insecure accommodation
Homelessness in London is rising. The combination of the economic downturn, high unemployment and benefit cuts underpinned by a shortage of housing and rents that are twice average take-home pay in the majority of areas mean that London is facing a real crisis. It’s a perfect storm that’s forcing increasing numbers into rent arrears, spiralling debt, or in the worst cases, homelessness.
So what can be done?
The next mayor will have new powers and funding to tackle London’s housing crisis. We need a mayor who is going to bring all of these powers together to address rising homelessness head on, and make tackling and preventing it a personal priority. We also need a mayor who will stand up for London’s interests to central government on welfare reform, on housing and on cuts to vital budgets.
All of the mayoral candidates would agree that London is a great city to live in, but we need them to make sure that that’s true for all of its citizens, including those who are poor and on the margins -– and who can be more marginal than those homeless people reliant on a shop doorway to protect them from the elements? Tackling rising homelessness will be a challenge, but at Crisis we think it is a challenge that the next mayor can and must rise to meet.
Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people. They are dedicated to ending homelessness by delivering life-changing services and campaigning for change. Visit their website for more information.