The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has warned that the switching off of an app that has been used by thousands of Londoners to help homeless people risks leaving vulnerable people on the street this winter.
The Streetlink app allows members of the public to alert local homelessness support services if they see someone sleeping rough in their area. Between April 2022 and March 2023 there were 11,861 referrals using the app nationally.
Last year, StreetLink alerts led directly to the Mayor’s Rapid Response Outreach Team supporting nearly 2,000 people into emergency accommodation or an assessment hub, with 85 per cent leaving rough sleeping as a result.
There are also eight London boroughs where a local outreach team responds to StreetLink alerts, meaning the total number of people supported off the streets each year following a report made to StreetLink will be higher still.
However, following the Government’s procurement of a new provider for the service this winter, the Mayor was deeply concerned to hear that the app that had helped so many vulnerable people is to be discontinued, with all referrals now having to be made via the StreetLink website. From 29 September 2023, Streetlink’s app ceased functioning, severing a vital method for concerned members of the public to help people sleeping rough.
Streetlink and other rough sleeping support services are set to be more vital than ever this winter as extraordinary financial pressures put the poorest at growing risk of homelessness. Across the country, rough sleeping rose last year and is up by 74% since 2010.
The Mayor continues to urge the Government to do much more to prevent rough sleeping. In particular, he wants to see the Government put more robust measures in place to tackle the unprecedented cost-of living-crisis, provide further assistance for those with drug and alcohol dependency and restore the social security safety net which helps stop people become trapped in a cycle of homelessness.
He has also called for the end to no-fault evictions for private renters and national investment in new council and affordable homes.
Since taking office, the Mayor has rapidly expanded the number of pan-London rough sleeping services that City Hall funds and commissions. Since 2016, the Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Programme has supported over 15,500 people to leave the streets for good, alleviating the suffering and indignity associated with rough sleeping.
However, the Mayor’s pioneering ‘In for Good’ principle meant that, following intervention from City Hall-funded services, more than 75 per cent of those who received support were not seen sleeping rough again.
At £36.3m, the rough sleeping budget in 2023/24 is now more than four times the £8.45m a year it was when Sadiq Khan took office. This includes £12.1m of City Hall funding and £23.5m secured from the Government.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It beggars belief that the Government is removing this support for rough sleepers at a time when the number of people on our country’s streets is rising, with the number up three-quarters in England since 2010.
“Last year, more than 11,000 referrals were made across England via the StreetLink app, around half of which were in London. This app has been crucial for connecting rough sleepers to services that can get them off the streets, including the Mayor’s pioneering Rapid Response Outreach Team.
“Ministers must urgently re-instate this important support for rough sleepers.”