‘Fewer rough sleepers’ on the streets of Westminster
Homeless solidarity group say new figures don’t reflect true picture
02 February, 2018 — By William McLennan
John Glackin and Mark Smith of homeless solidarity group Streets Kitchen
THE number of rough sleepers in Westminster has fallen in the past year, bucking a national trend which saw figures increase for the seventh year in a row.
But the problem remains more acute in the borough than anywhere else in the UK, with 217 people found sleeping on the streets on one winter night last year.
The council said yesterday (Thursday) they had joined the Mayor of London and two other boroughs to pledge a total of £60million to buy homes for the homeless. The scheme aims to buy 330 existing private properties and “let them at genuinely affordable rents to some of the most vulnerable Londoners”.
In Westminster, the number counted in the “snapshot” assessment had fallen by 43 from 260 – a decrease of 17 per cent. In 2014 and 2015 the number remained steady at 265.
But some fear the numbers are likely to be far higher.
John Glackin, of the homeless solidarity group Streets Kitchen, said: “The numbers are far too low. They only count people if they actually see them sleeping or bedding down, but not if they’re sat on a wall. It also doesn’t count all the people hidden away, that aren’t in plain sight.”
Councillor Rachael Robathan, cabinet member for housing, said: “With the West End at its heart, Westminster faces unique pressures when it comes to helping those who are rough sleeping, with the majority of cases coming to us from outside the borough.
“We are taking effective action to help those who end up on our pavements. Last year, the council introduced a new strategy which aims to ensure people do not spend a second night sleeping rough. And in the past year we have seen the largest decrease in rough sleeping of all London boroughs.
“Westminster is also the first council in the country to open a centre specifically for female rough sleepers at risk of domestic or sexual violence. It also helps victims of trafficking.
“We continue to spend more than any other local authority on doing our best to ensure rough sleepers find a route to a better life.”