Our main headline from the Connection is that we are very busy indeed. I expect you’ve noticed the number of people in a desperate situation around the Church, around central London and beyond.

Whilst the national figures for people sleeping rough indicate the situation has stabilised, the picture in London is different. Rough sleeping across London at the end of December 2018 had increased 25% on the previous year. Westminster has fared only slightly better – up by 20%. Even the increase in rough sleeping is speeding up.

Over half of the rough sleepers in Westminster aren’t from the UK, with many people from central and eastern European countries. The number of women rough sleeping is slowly rising – now at 17% rather than the traditional 10%. Westminster’s rough sleepers have more complex support needs including mental and physical health issues alongside drug and alcohol dependency. The rise is fuelled by a heady combination of issues. These include rent increases in a broken housing market, 3 years of housing benefit freezes, a tough response to immigration and the impact of 10 years of austerity on adult social care services.

As more and more people are sleeping on the streets, more and more people are noticing and want to help, which is inspiring and energising. Our role of ‘Connection’ means increasing joint work with other agencies to make our collective response efficient and effective. Alongside our work, the new government rough sleeping strategy is beginning to tackle the policy drivers which are leading to the sharp rise in homelessness.

If you would like to read more, we produced a blog in January, https://www.connection-at-stmartins.org.uk/news-item/pam-orchard-the-rise-in-rough-sleeping-in-london/ If you are concerned about a rough sleeper in your neighbourhood, please contact StreetLink online, on Twitter @Tell_StreetLink or by calling 0300 500 0914.

Pam Orchard