Sharp rise in people sleeping on streets

Government figures show numbers have now doubled

Friday, 4th March

windsstormhomelesseuston

A shocking image from last weekend’s storms as people continued to sleep in  tents

THE number of homeless people in Camden has doubled in the past year – a larger increase than anywhere else in the UK, new figures show.

A government snapshot, which counts the number of people sleeping on the streets on one night each autumn, found 97 rough sleepers in Camden – up from 42 in 2020.

The new data comes just weeks after the New Journal reported the shocking statistic that on average one rough sleeper a month dies in the borough.

The increase came despite Town Hall receiving at least £1.5million more in homelessness funding, under the rough sleeping initiative, last year than 2020.

Matt Turtle, the founder of the Museum of Homelessness, said: “Camden has the bleakest picture of any borough -– and this isn’t a surprise, people have been telling them there is a problem for years. They are getting it right in other boroughs, they need to do better in Camden.”

In the government report, Camden said the increase in rough sleepers was due to “the closure of accommodation that was provided as part of the response to the pandemic” under the “Everyone In” scheme.

It added that the increase could also be due to a rise in rough sleepers from the EU, including those with no recourse to public funds.

But Mr Turtle said: “Across London, half of people sleeping rough are from the EU. Most other boroughs have had decreases in the number of rough sleepers – so it doesn’t stack up as an explanation. Why should Camden be any different?”

Instead, Mr Turtle believes the reason for the jump is: “Camden doesn’t have the accommodation and they haven’t built constructive relationships with rough sleeping communities, which is keeping people away from services.”

In recent weeks we’ve reported on what has been described as the borough’s hostile environment for rough sleepers; people have told us about being constantly moved on by the police, requests for help going ignored and offers of dangerous accommodation.

Even Amnesty International and Liberty Human Rights have written a letter accusing the council of breaking human rights law with their treatment of rough sleepers.

Elodie Berland, a volunteer for Street’s Kitchen, said: “The council keeps saying they’re doing a wonderful job, but these numbers are facts. There is a massive problem.

“Islington, they have four rough sleepers, it’s four too many – but it’s so much better, because they have better systems in place, they go out of their way to do something and to treat people with respect. That’s the massive difference with Camden.”

Camden’s community safety chief, Councillor Nadia Shah, said: “We have invested significantly in support services and thanks to the work of our ‘Routes off the Street’ specialist team and their delivery partners, we have reduced rough sleeping by 70 per cent in Camden since 2018. Despite this, we are clear that no-one should be living on the streets and that there is further work to do.

 She added: “’Routes off the Street’ help people rough sleeping to access the support and temporary accommodation they need to rebuild their lives and move towards secure, independent living.

We invest £10million annually in services to help single homeless people in Camden and to tackle the inequality of rough sleeping in the borough.

“This includes providing 650 beds in the Camden Adult Hostel Pathway to help many former rough sleepers to rebuild their lives. In Camden we see between 600 and 800 rough sleepers arrive on our streets each year. We are able to reach many of these individuals quickly and support them away from the street.

“This winter for example, we delivered 37 additional beds through working with Westminster Council and our neighbouring boroughs and we opened a dedicated service for women only providing 15 beds. These interventions have helped to deliver a significant reduction in rough sleeping in the last three months.”

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