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“Fining people is not a solution to ending homelessness”

Dear Home Secretary,

In 2022 the government declared that there is “a moral imperative to end rough sleeping and to end it for good”. As organisations that work with people who have experienced homelessness, we agree.

A wide range of factors, from the lack of truly affordable homes to the rising cost of living, can quickly force people into homelessness and onto the streets. Sleeping rough is dangerous and terrifying: recent research found that nine out of 10 people who survive without a safe roof over their heads are subject to violence and abuse.

We recognise the steps that your government has taken to address rough sleeping. After committing in its manifesto to end rough sleeping by the end of this year, the government has put £2bn behind a rough sleeping strategy in England. The Chancellor recently restored local housing allowance rates, which will help many more people to afford their rent.

Under the terms of the Bill, this includes people who look like they have slept rough, or who merely ‘intend’ to do so.

It could see women, who are disproportionately likely to suffer violence and sexual abuse on the streets, penalised for seeking shelter and safety in well-lit doorways. It could see a fine of £2,500 issued to a person carrying an ‘excessive smell’.

To support people away from rough sleeping, we must establish trust between the authorities and those on the streets and find ways to connect people in unsafe situations with stable housing and support. The threat of fines and prison risks the opposite – stigmatising those forced to sleep rough, and pushing them away from help and into more dangerous environments.


Signed by Mick Clarke, Chief Executive at The Passage and sector partners

Matt Downie, Chief Executive, Crisis
Kerry Moscogiuri, Campaigns and Communications Director, Amnesty UK
Kimberley Glendenning, Head of Public Affairs, Big Issue Group
Seyi Obakin, CEO, Centrepoint
Gavin Smart, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute for Housing
Katie Dalton, Director, Cymorth Cymru
Alexia Murphy, CEO, Depaul UK
Charlotte Talbott, Chief Executive, Emmaus UK
Ben Twomey, Chief Executive, Generation Rent
Jo Carter, CEO, Glass Door Homeless Charity
Michael Chandler, Chief Executive, Groundswell
Rick Henderson, Chief Executive, Homeless Link
Tim Nelson, CEO, Hope for Justice
Bonnie Williams, Chief Executive, Housing Justice
Fiona Rutherford, Chief Executive, Justice
Simon Gale, Chief Executive, Justlife
Sam Grant, Advocacy Director, Liberty
Sam Austin, Deputy Chief Executive, LLamau
Bridget Young, Director, NACCOM

Kate Henderson, CEO, National Housing Federation
Alex Bax, Chief Executive, Pathway
Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director, Release
Dr Laura Neilson, Chief Executive, Shared Health
Polly Neate, CEO, Shelter
Liz Rutherford, CEO, Single Homelessness Project
Jean Templeton, Chief Executive, St Basils
Emma Haddad, Chief Executive, St Mungo’s
Peter Stephenson, Director, St Petrock’s
Antonia May Cross, Head of Influencing, Switchback
Alicja Zalesinska, Chief Executive, Tai Pawb
Pam Orchard, Chief Executive, The Connection
Mick Clarke, Chief Executive, The Passage
Nick Redmore, Director of Homelessness Services, The Salvation Army
Sian Aldridge, Interim Chief Executive, The Wallich
Jayni Gudka, CEO, Unseen Tours
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive, YMCA England & Wales
Amanda Dubarry, Chief Executive, Your Place

A recent report revealed a 34% increase in the number of people who experienced street homelessness for the very first time, in London*. That’s over 2,283 people spending their first night on the streets between October and December 2023.

Shockingly, those who were rough sleeping for the first time made up 52% of the total number of people experiencing street homelessness (4,389) during this period.

Overall, there has been a 23% increase in the total number of people rough sleeping in London, compared to 2022.


Who is rough sleeping in London?

Of the 4,389 people located, they were of the below demographics:

Gender: most of the people seen were men.

  • Male: 3,630 (84.9%)
  • Female: 641 (15%)
  • Non-binary: 7 (0.2%)
  • Gender unknown: 111

Age: most people seen were aged 36 – 45.

  • 18-25: 372 (8.5%)
  • 26-35: 1,237 (28.2%)
  • 36-45: 1,348 (30.7%)
  • 46-55: 904 (20.6%)
  • Over 55: 525 (12%)

Ethnicity: most people seen were White British.

Image

Screenshot taken from 2023/24 Q3 CHAIN report.

The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), reports on the demographics of those who are found to be rough sleeping during their street counts, to give a greater insight into who this issue is affecting.

Where in London are homelessness rates at their highest?

Westminster has the highest number of people rough sleeping out of all Greater London boroughs, with 740 people bedded down in the area. For context, this is 45% more than the borough with the next highest number of people: Camden (330)

The area with the lowest number of people rough sleeping was Sutton (9).

Live in London? Find out how many people were rough sleeping in your area.

  • Barking & Dagenham: 46
  • Barnet: 54
  • Bexley: 19
  • Brent: 143
  • Bromley: 34
  • Camden: 330
  • City of London: 279
  • Croydon: 143
  • Ealing: 295
  • Enfield: 54
  • Greenwich: 135
  • Hackney: 81
  • Hammersmith & Fulham: 168
  • Haringey: 156
  • Harrow: 40
  • Havering: 16
  • Hillingdon: 104
  • Hounslow: 144
  • Islington: 146
  • Kensington & Chelsea: 81
  • Kingston upon Thames: 41
  • Lambeth: 242
  • Lewisham: 107
  • Merton: 20
  • Newham: 176
  • Redbridge: 99
  • Richmond: 33
  • Southwark: 218
  • Sutton: 9
  • Tower Hamlets: 147
  • Waltham Forest: 71
  • Wandsworth: 72
  • Westminster: 740

October – December 2023.

Outreach teams across London record this information. So, it is worth noting that this report does not include people from “hidden homeless” groups such as those “sofa surfing” or living in squats, unless they were also been seen bedded down on the streets.


We provide a wide range of support services to those who are experiencing and at risk of homelessness, including:

Prevention

The Passage believe that we need to move away from seeing street homelessness as something that is managed, to instead something that is prevented. That is why we are running new and innovative schemes, like our No Night Out scheme, that intervenes before someone spends even one night out on the street.

Of the 101 people supported by No Night Out recently, 100 have sustained accommodation and are living securely in their new homes.


Immediate Welfare

Located just moments from Victoria Station we provide day-time support to those who are rough sleeping. Our Resource Centre opens from Monday – Friday, providing hot meals, showers, clothing, laundry facilities and appointments with our Resettlement Team – who help people to find a route to stable housing and employment opportunities.


Housing support and accommodation

We also run a Housing Solutions Service, helping those who make a homeless application to the local council, and four accommodation projects providing a mix of temporary and long-term housing.


Resource Centre B&w

I’d like to help those experiencing or at risk of homelessness

*CHAIN report, Q3: October – December 2023 compared to October – December 2022.

We are thrilled to announce that our recent Big Give Christmas campaign was a success. In just one week we received over 960 donations, raising an incredible total of £609,545 in matched funding!

Thank you to everyone who showed their support, whether it be through a generous donation or helping us to spread the word about this important campaign.

Without the support of the public, we could not continue to provide the vital services that those experiencing or at risk of homelessness rely on.

This campaign saw us reach and exceed our largest fundraising target to date, which was set to ensure we can continue to support the increasing number of people accessing our services. Over the past few years we have seen more and more people coming to our doors in vulnerable situations, so this funding will ensure we can continue to help those in housing crisis this winter and beyond.

Mick Clarke, Chief Executive of The Passage would like to share a personal thank you to those who supported this campaign, which can be viewed in the video message below.

The focus of our campaign: ‘Home for Christmas. Home for Life’, embodies everything that The Passage is about. We are dedicated to providing long-term, sustainable outcomes for those we support. Thanks to the kind support of the local community, we can continue our work; preventing and ending homelessness for good.

Today, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan launched the capital’s first ever Rough Sleeping Charter: a public commitment for Londoners to work together to end rough sleeping. Over 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 – including The Passage, Connection at St Martin’s, Groundswell, Housing Justice, 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.

Rough Sleeping Charter

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% increase in total during the period July-September 2023, compared to the previous year, with outreach teams recording 4,068 individuals sleeping rough in the city.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The growing number of rough sleepers across London and the wider country is deeply alarming. 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.

One of my top priorities as Mayor is to end rough sleeping in the capital for good, and create a better, fairer London for all.”

For more information on the charter and ways to pledge your support, visit endroughsleepinglondon.org.uk

Dear Home Secretary,

cc Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

As organisations supporting people experiencing homelessness, we are writing to ask you to urgently reconsider proposals to criminalise the use of tents by people sleeping rough as a replacement for the draconian 1824 Vagrancy Act.

Working on the frontline of the homelessness crisis, we know all too well the risk to life these punitive laws present, and how they only serve to push people further into destitution. We are calling for an urgent reversal of this decision if the government wants to prevent people from dying on our streets, exposed to the cold and all the hardship that rough sleeping entails.

Sleeping on the street is not a lifestyle choice. Laying blame with people forced to sleep rough will only push people further away from help into poverty, putting them at risk of exploitation. At the extreme end we will see an increase in deaths and fatalities which are totally preventable.

People sleeping rough frequently experience violence and abuse. The impact on their physical and mental health is significant. The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is just 45 for men and 43 for women. This is not a life people choose.

There is much more that can be done to tackle rough sleeping, and ending it for good is completely achievable. We urge you to focus on housing solutions to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, investing in interventions like Housing First which helps people into safe, secure housing combined with wraparound services so people can remain off the streets. These are models that are proven to work.

In the short-term, increasing housing benefit at the Autumn Statement so people can afford their rent must also be part of the solution. Alongside this, there needs to be a reversal of the recent changes to asylum-seeker policy which are resulting in people granted settled status being evicted within a matter of days, pushing them into rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness.

We strongly urge you to reconsider these measures, which will result in harm to thousands of people who have no option but to sleep in a tent, or on the streets, as they have no home of their own. Removing the only protection many people depend on and endangering lives cannot be the answer. We remain willing to work with you and the government on genuine solutions to end rough sleeping for good, but these changes gravely undermine any efforts to do so.

Kind regards,

Mick Clarke, CEO, The Passage

Matt Downie MBE, CEO, Crisis

Gavin Smart, CEO, Chartered Institute of Housing

Seyi Obakin OBE, CEO, Centrepoint

Katie Dalton, Director, Cymorth Cymru

Jean Templeton, CEO, St Basils and Chair of the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce

Rick Henderson, CEO, Homeless Link

Kate Henderson, CEO, National Housing Federation

Alex Bax, CEO, Pathway

Pam Orchard, CEO, The Connection at St Martin in the Fields

Emma Haddad, CEO, St Mungo’s

Michael Chandler, CEO, Groundswell

Bridget Young, Director, NACCOM

Amanda Dubarry, CEO, Your Place

Enver Solomon, CEO, The Refugee Council

The Passage strongly condemns the new enforcement powers outlined by the Home Secretary, regarding street homelessness.

We believe that everyone deserves a place to call home; that no one should ever have to sleep on the streets, or indeed in a tent on the streets. This policy risks demonising the poorest in our society without even beginning to address the real issues facing our country regarding poverty and homelessness. In the long term, building more social housing and seeking to prevent homelessness occurring in the first place must be the priority, yet the simple fact is that the government could be taking immediate steps to alleviate the homelessness crisis, such as unfreezing Local Housing Allowance and creating more emergency accommodation.

The Home Secretary states that homelessness is a “lifestyle choice” and that “there are options for people who don’t want to be sleeping rough, and the government is working with local authorities to strengthen wrap around support”. However, the stark reality on the ground is that many local authorities are no longer able to provide accommodation for those most in need; some have even been forced to either give, or direct people towards tents as they are simply unable to offer any other housing solution. The people that we work with have certainly not chosen to be on the streets; circumstances have put them there.

When the Home Secretary speaks of wanting to stop crime blighting our communities, this is of course something with which we all agree. However, these measures will do nothing to address the causes of crime and it is important to realise that those on the streets are far more likely to be victims of crime rather than perpetrators. Instead, to focus on addressing issues such as drug dealing and modern slavery – which puts many who are street homeless at risk – would be significantly more effective than criminalising homelessness.

All of this comes days after the highest monthly increase ever recorded for those sleeping out on our streets since records began. Instead of taking the opportunity to repeal the archaic Vagrancy Act and address the anti-social behaviour that those on the streets and in the wider community are victims of, we are presented with a set of measures designed for show with no substance to tackle the real cause of the scandal – that being far too many people now experiencing street homelessness.

There are so many good people and organisations – charities, voluntary and community groups, companies, and local and central government civil servants – who are working tirelessly to address the scandal of street homelessness in our country and we’re very proud to work with and alongside such committed partners. During the Covid-19 pandemic, street homelessness was treated as a public health emergency, which led to society coming together to implement the Everyone In initiative. Instead of headline grabbing politics, we need policies that address the core issues; we urgently need to re-frame street homelessness and adopt measures that will prevent it from happening in the first place.

The latest official figures show that as winter approaches, the number of people who are street homeless is going to be at a level not seen for over two decades. Every single one is a human being and a personal tragedy. With the impact of the cost of living crisis, we are seeing more people at risk of street homelessness who would never have thought they would be in that position.

This winter, we are facing an emergency on our streets. We desperately need the right policies in place to address the scandal that is street homelessness. Frontline staff at The Passage, in collaboration with our partners, work tirelessly to support some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We will not stop until we have ended the national shame that is street homelessness in 21st century Britain and instead of criminalising homelessness, we strongly encourage the government to work with us, and countless others, to bring about lasting change. As evidenced during the pandemic, there is so much more that can be achieved by working together to end street homelessness.

We therefore urge the government to once again take this collaborative approach and work with us to end homelessness for good.

Mick Clarke, Chief Executive
Met06342

Today, digital equity is more important than ever. In a society that is heavily centered around technology, with most services moving online, many people face a disadvantage if they do not have access to the resources, or skills needed.

Some people within our society are more likely to be digitally excluded than others, and this includes those who experience homelessness, do not have a job, or are on low income.

That’s why, The Passage established a Digital Inclusion Programme in 2022, which has already helped a number of people to access and utilise technology, to improve their communication and quality of life.

Hand on keyboard of laptop, typing

What are the barriers that someone may face to digital inclusion?

There are a variety of barriers that can prevent someone from being digitally included. For example:

  • If someone does not have access to a mobile phone/tablet/computer or the internet
  • If someone does not know how to navigate the internet, or the skills to use certain online services/platforms
  • If someone lacks confidence in using technology, or isn’t aware of what is available to them online

The Passage’s Digital Inclusion Programme

Our Education and Employment Team developed a Digital Inclusion Programme, in which they provide 1-2-1 training.

The aim of this programme is to reduce the digital divide that those who experience or become at risk of homelessness face.

This training is designed to equip The Passage’s service users with the skills necessary to be able to access and use essential services online, independently.

Since its development, the programme has helped our service users to:

  • Access their Universal Credit (UC) journal and communicate with their UC coach
  • Research various topics online, such as job opportunities
  • Apply for jobs, and navigate their way to interviews
  • Stay up-to-date with the news
  • Download and use different applications
  • Use social media to reconnect and contact their friends and family
  • Communicate with their Key Worker at The Passage, meaning they are always able to receive our support.

The Passage also runs computer access sessions, alongside a digital drop-in twice a month facilitated by volunteers. These sessions offer visitors regular online access and a supportive environment for digital assistance.

In the future, we hope to continue building on this programme, focusing on new topics such as Canva training to continue improving these skills.

Thank you

To support the programme, Landsec, SocialBox, and Techary have kindly donated laptops which can also be given to service users, allowing them to practice and maintain the skills they’ve learned to continue to stay digitally connected.

We would also like to say a huge thank you to the AT&T team for sponsoring this programme and working to close the digital divide.

Want to get involved? Get in touch today!

In the latest CHAIN (Combined Homelessness and Information Network) report, outreach teams recorded 4,068 individuals sleeping rough in the capital between July to September 2023. The number of new rough sleepers in London accounted for over 50% of this total, with 2,086 people found to be sleeping rough for the very first time.

This report is deeply concerning; particularly the fact that we have record numbers of people sleeping out on our streets for the first time and an increase in the number of younger people experiencing street homelessness: 33% were between 18 – 35 years old.

“With winter approaching, this data is immensely concerning and we fear that there is a risk of rough sleeping reaching levels not seen for over two decades. In addition to emergency measures that need to be put in place over the winter period to help people move safely off the streets, there must also be measures focused on prevention, for example, the unfreezing of Local Housing Allowance Rates, access to genuine social housing and initiatives such as The Passage’s successful No Night Out scheme.

There is no reason why anyone in the UK should ever have to sleep out and it’s nothing short of a scandal that we are now seeing the number of people rough sleeping at an all-time high. During the Covid-19 pandemic, street homelessness was treated as a public health emergency, which led to society coming together to implement the Everyone In initiative.

Every day so many people in London and across the UK are working tirelessly to manage this crisis, but we can’t continue with the status quo. We urgently need to re-frame street homelessness and adopt measures that will prevent it from happening in the first place.”

– Mick Clarke, Chief Executive

Read the full Q2 CHAIN report


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