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Homeless And Hidden From Help – London’s Secret Homelessness Problem

  • A new report published 27 September estimates there are thirteen times more hidden homeless people in London than those sleeping rough - as many as 12,500 each night.
  • 225,000 young people in London have stayed in an unsafe place because they had nowhere safe to call home.
  • The hidden homeless have no place to call home, but are hidden from official statistics, and aren’t receiving support.
  • They may experience sofa surfing, sleeping rough, squatting or sleeping on public transport. This can be dangerous, and leave people at risk of assault or abuse.
  • Young people are especially likely to be affected, particularly those who identify as LGBT, as well as those who have experienced domestic violence and abuse.
  • Hidden homeless people are often ineligible for homelessness support, and only one in five aged 16-24 seek help from the council. Those that do present often fail to be recognised as vulnerable, despite being in danger.

The London Assembly Housing Committee publishes its report ‘Hidden homelessness in London‘ today, which makes a number of recommendations to the Mayor and the Government:

  • The Government should ensure that legislation guarantees victims of abuse the right to remain in their homes, if they wish, rather than the perpetrator 
  • The Government should provide sufficient financial support to London local authorities to ensure the successful implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act.
  • The Mayor should push local authorities to automatically record the protected characteristics of those presenting at housing options services, so we can learn more about London’s homeless population.

Sian Berry AM, Chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee said:

“People sleeping on the streets of our city are just the tip of an iceberg. The London Assembly Housing Committee investigation found a much wider problem of hidden homeless people in London who have no permanent home and live precariously.

In fact, 13 times more Londoners are hidden and homeless than are visibly sleeping rough.

Young people, asylum seekers and people escaping domestic violence can find it hard to get help due to gaps in current policies, and many don’t even try to seek help. So-called sofa surfing is common and people can end up staying with virtual strangers where they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

With the Homelessness Reduction Act coming soon, the Housing Committee wants to see more action on this problem. We need the Mayor and the Government to rally behind local authorities with support to reach every Londoner who needs help.”

Terrie Alafat, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said:

“Homelessness has risen steadily since 2010 according to official statistics and we know that the problem is acute in London. But as this report highlights there are many more people affected by homelessness that we don’t know about.

To have so many people homeless in 2017 is quite simply a national disgrace and something we must act on now. History tells us that we can significantly reduce homelessness, but it will take a cross-departmental commitment from government and a strategic approach to tackle all of its causes.

It is also very clear that local authorities across the capital, and the country, will need support to deliver the new duties imposed upon them by the Homelessness Reduction Act.”