Rough sleeping saw 26% increase in City of London in lead up to Christmas

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Rough sleeping in the City of London increased by 26% in the build up to last Christmas, new figures have revealed.

Greater London Authority CHAIN data shows that there were 132 people sleeping rough on borough’s streets between September and December 2020, up from 105 over the previous three-month period.

Local London Assembly Member, Unmesh Desai AM, is now urging the Government to reinstate the level of support they gave to rough sleeping services at the start of pandemic.

 During the first lockdown the Government-backed ‘Everyone In’ scheme enabled City Hall, working alongside councils and charities, to secure safe and long-term hotel accommodation for thousands of rough sleepers in the capital.

 Despite a chorus of calls from Mr Desai, the Mayor, council leaders and homeless charities, Ministers refused to allocate funding to replicate the scheme over the winter. In December, City Hall’s rough sleeping team identified a £24 million Government funding gap for securing emergency accommodation for those on the streets.

Concerns have also been sparked about the impact of the pandemic upon Londoners in the private rented sector and their heightened risk of homelessness. A recent survey published by Citizens Advice found that 1 in 7 tenants in the capital have been falling behind on their rent into arrears.

This comes as figures published last week, by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), revealed that London had the highest unemployment rate in the UK between September and November 2020- having risen to 6.5%.

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Whilst the Government extended the evictions ban for another six weeks last month, a new exemption allows landlords to evict tenants who have built up six months of rent arrears.

In April 2019, Ministers also pledged to outlaw section 21 or ‘no fault’ evictions. However, almost two years on, this option for private sector landlords to remove their tenants without having to provide a reason, is still set to be in place after the eviction ban period ends.

Mr Desai said: “With the progress that was made with the Everyone In scheme during the first lockdown, it is tragic and frustrating to see that the number of rough sleepers on our streets, exposed to both Covid-19 and the cold bite of winter, increased in the lead up to Christmas.

 “Whilst the efforts of City Hall, local authorities, charities and mutual aid groups to get people into safe accommodation should be roundly commended, these figures show that more Central Government support for rough sleeping services is clearly needed.

 “We know that the causes of homelessness are complex, but Ministers can take concrete action now to stop even more Londoners from ending up on our streets on the middle of a pandemic.

 “This includes clearing the rent arrears of tenants impacted by the pandemic, raising local Housing Allowance to cover average rents and finally putting an end to section 21 evictions.”

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