The number of people sleeping rough in London has soared by 43% in just 12 months latest figures reveal. Homeless Charity Broadway said 5,678 people slept on the streets between March 2011 and April, up from 3,975 the previous year.
This shocking rise has happened in the year of the sacred Olympics despite Boris Johnson’s pledge to end rough sleeping in the capital by the end of the year. Boris has also previously claimed that he ‘wouldn’t allow Kosovo style social cleansing on his watch’ and then proceeded to do fuck all as the housing benefit caps were brought in, creating an exodus of the lowest income families from central London.
Some homelessness project workers have reported a huge rise in those under 35 unable to find homes. Under new Housing Benefit rules, those under 35 are only eligible for a room in a shared house. No assessment was done to examine whether their were enough properties of this type, at an affordable level, to ensure this brutal change did not force people onto the streets.
The tragic reality is that these figures represent the tip of the iceberg and there is far worse to come. The figures are based on a ‘street count’ by outreach workers and at best represent a rough guess of the minimum figures. Those sleeping rough outside of Central London, in parks, derelict buildings or anywhere else hidden from view are not included in the figures. The tens of thousands of people in hostel, night-shelter or B&B accommodation, in squats or sleeping on friends sofas are also not included and reveal that the homelessness and street homelessness crisis is only just getting started.
The Housing Benefit caps have still not been fully introduced for existing tenants, whilst even those who have faced the cut will not necessarily become homeless overnight. The number of households applying for Local Authority support due to becoming homeless has risen recently by 16%.
Homeless Link, an umbrella organisation of homelessness charities, also report that 4000 emergency bed spaces for homeless people have been lost due to government cuts.
But still this toff Government aren’t happy. The overall benefit cap, which will see London as a whole become unaffordable for larger families, will not take effect until next April. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit, set to be introduced in 2014 in his dreams, will reduce protection for owner-occupiers who find themselves unable to work, by stripping back support for help with mortgage interest payments. The new sanctions regime could see hundreds of thousands of people, many with children, plunged into levels of poverty not seen in generations in the UK. Next year the squatting ban will begin to take effect, whilst Cameron’s intention to cut Housing Benefit for those under 25 will create unprecedented youth homelessness.
Meanwhile rents are rising as no-one can afford to buy a home anymore. It is possible that the influx of Housing Benefit claimants into less expensive areas is further driving up prices as demand for cheaper properties soars. The Housing Benefit bill keeps getting bigger despite the savage cuts. This Government seems intent on driving the low waged, disabled, unwell or unemployed from their homes whatever the cost.
A demonstration has been called by the
Right To Work Campaign (I know) against the proposed Housing Benefit cuts for those under 25.
Bring placards and cardboard boxes and meet opposite Downing Street at 11am this Wednesday 4th July.