Westminster City Council is seeking views on its new draft Rough Sleeping Strategy which sets out how it will tackle the problem over the next three years.
“Rough sleeping is a growing problem nationally, but is particularly acute in Westminster, which has by far the highest number of rough sleepers in the country”, states the draft Rough Sleeping Strategy for 2017-2020.
“A key reason for this is our unique location — in the heart of the capital city and the centre of its transport network (including the major international hub at Victoria Coach Station). It is a place that brings together businesses and visitors from all over London, the UK and the rest of the world, to an extent simply not seen anywhere else in the country.”
The council works with other organisations to monitor rough sleeping and uses the Combined
Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), a multi-agency database recording
information in London.
The statistics on rough sleeping in Westminster make for grim reading.
According to CHAIN, 2,857 people were seen rough sleeping in Westminster during 2015-16. This is 35% of all rough sleepers in London and more than the next seven ranking boroughs combined. Quarterly street counts suggest that, on any one night, there are “around 300 people sleeping rough on Westminster’s streets”.
The number of overseas nationals has increased dramatically since 2012 and they now make up around 65% of those living on the streets on a typical night.
In 2015-16, 17% of rough sleepers in Westminster were women. “However, it is likely that this figure is an underestimate due to the ‘hidden’ nature of rough sleeping among women and the specific dangers they face, including increased threats of violence, abuse and sexual exploitation,” says the council’s rough sleeping team.
Rough sleepers currently cost public services a disproportionate amount, due to the complexity of issues they face and their use of public services in an unplanned way. “An entrenched rough sleeper has been estimated to cost the public an average of £16,000 per year through demands placed on public services (compared to £4,600 for the average adult). The current pressures on finances across all partners mean it is vital that we work together to reduce these costs,” says the council.
The council is also supporting the Homelessness Reduction Bill which they say will help people from losing their homes in the first place.
Westminster City Council is seeking views on its draft Rough Sleeping Strategy until 4 November 2016. openforum.westminster.gov.uk/draft-rough-sleeping-strategy1 (WCC draft_rough_sleeping_strategy pdf).
If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough contact StreetLink at streetlink.org.uk or call 0300 500 0914. They will make sure details are forwarded to local outreach teams in Westminster, and you can get an update on what happens.