The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has today launched the capital’s first ever Rough Sleeping Charter, a public commitment for Londoners to work together to end rough sleeping.
More than 100 charities, faith groups, businesses and people with lived experience have helped to design and develop the charter, creating a shared purpose and vision for tackling the challenge of rough sleeping in the capital.
The rough sleeping charter started with a small group of organisations and city government officials – the Connection at St Martin’s, Groundswell, Housing Justice, The Passage, YMCA St. Paul’s, Bloomberg Associates, the Greater London Authority and London Councils — who wanted to engage better with the community and build a bigger movement around the goal to end rough sleeping.
At £36.3m, the GLA rough sleeping budget in 2023/24 is now more than four times the £8.45m a year it was when Sadiq took office.
The Mayor’s pioneering ‘In for Good’ principle has meant, following intervention from City Hall-funded services, more than 75 per cent of those who received support were not seen sleeping rough again. More than 16,000 rough sleepers have been helped off of the streets since Sadiq was elected Mayor in 2016.
This morning, the Mayor attended an event at St John’s Church in Waterloo, to sign the charter alongside more than 40 organisations including Homeless Link, St. Mungo’s and Thames Reach, Bloomberg LP, Coutt’s Foundation, and Deliveroo. The charter is backed by the ‘Life Off the Streets’ programme, a coalition of organisations working together to end rough sleeping in London.
The Charter sets out six principles for signatories to uphold in their work including:
- Accepting that whilst people sleeping rough may have problems, they aren’t problem people
- Recognising that everyone rough sleeping is unique, and there should be meaningful options for all, regardless of immigration status
- Ensuring that people sleeping rough are safe from violence, abuse, theft and discrimination and that they have the full protection of the law
It also includes key actions that signatories commit to undertake and support:
- Acknowledging people when they talk to you or ask you for money, even if you decide you would rather not give it to them directly
- If you see someone sleeping rough who needs help, let Streetlink London know
- Volunteer, donate, or support a charity who has joined this pledge
For many the cost-of-living crisis, rising rents and benefit cuts have created the perfect storm forcing more people onto the streets.
The latest ‘snapshot’ Government figures, published earlier this year, showed rough sleeping has increased in every region of England year-on-year, including in London.
City Hall’s Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) data showed a 12 per cent increase in total during the period July-September 2023, compared to the previous year, with outreach teams recording 4068 individuals sleeping rough in the city.
Sadiq has warned that, in the face of rising rough sleeping nationally, Londoners cannot solve this crisis alone. Speaking this morning, the Mayor called for Government to provide an emergency winter package of support to avoid people having to sleep rough this winter, with £20m for emergency accommodation and support and an end to evictions from Home Office accommodation during the full duration of periods of extreme weather.
The additional funding would help ensure that there is sufficient emergency accommodation and support during cold weather across the capital this winter.
The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is activated by the Mayor when temperatures fall below 0°C and ensures councils open additional emergency accommodation for people sleeping rough. SWEP was active for 28 nights last winter and has already run for 5 days this winter.
While the number of bedspaces available when SWEP is activated is higher than last year, rising demand means additional investment from Government is needed to ensure everyone gets the support they need.
The British Red Cross has previously warned that changes to Home Office policy could leave over 50,000 people across the country homeless, so an essential minimum step of banning evictions for the entire duration of periods of SWEP activation, would stop more people ending up on the street during the coldest temperatures this winter.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “We’re launching the first ever London Rough Sleeping Charter – bringing together Londoners, businesses, charities and communities to express our shared belief that there’s nothing inevitable about someone spending a night in a doorway, car or abandoned building. And that by working together we can end the scandal of rough sleeping in London.
“Homelessness is a societal illness. Witnessing people living on our streets leaves us horrified and helpless. That person we walk past has hopes and fears, just like us – they’re someone’s family, someone’s friend and they deserve dignity. We cannot – must not – stand by and allow a social catastrophe to unfold in a nation as rich as ours.
“The cost-of-living crisis and other changes in Government policy is putting more and more Londoners at risk of losing their homes and ending up with nowhere to go.
“As Mayor, I’m determined to do everything possible to end rough sleeping in the capital as we build a better London for everyone. That’s why we’re taking unprecedented and coordinated action as a city. But we also need the Government to play its part and deliver a comprehensive emergency winter package of support to help avoid those most vulnerable having to sleep in the cold this winter.”
Thanks to the Mayor’s leadership, more than 16,000 people have been assisted by City Hall-funded services to leave the streets for good since 2016.
The charter will now provide a rallying point for Londoners, businesses, charities and communities to join the Mayor in efforts to end rough sleeping. In other cities, including Manchester, Leicester, Oxford, Gateshead and Leeds, the rough sleeping charter has been a catalyst for greater public awareness as well as community and business involvement in tackling rough sleeping.